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There are many myths and misconceptions about the need for contraception after pregnancy. Myths about the safety and effectiveness of birth control cause many people to avoid using it postpartum. Rather than risk an unplanned pregnancy, it’s best to talk to your doctor and learn the facts.

Here are five common myths — and the truth about using birth control after pregnancy.

Myth #1: You Should Wait a Few Weeks After Giving Birth Before Starting Birth Control

Most doctors recommend waiting four to six weeks after delivery to start having sex, but not because of birth control. Your body needs that time to heal from delivery — including trauma, incisions, and stitches. Once you become sexually active again, you could get pregnant. Start birth control as soon as possible.

These contraception methods are safe to start immediately after giving birth — and your doctor can provide them right after delivery:

  • The birth control shot.
  • Birth control implants.
  • An IUD.
  • Progestin-only pill.

Talk to your doctor about postpartum contraception before you give birth. They may recommend starting birth control right away to avoid an unintended pregnancy.

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Myth #2: You Don’t Need Contraception if You Use Breastfeeding as Birth Control

Breastfeeding your newborn usually stops ovulation, so it’s unlikely that you’ll get pregnant. But it’s not fool-proof, so consider these factors:

  • You feed your baby only from your breast. If you supplement breastfeeding with bottles of formula or pumped breast milk, breastfeeding as birth control is less effective.
  • You don’t go more than four hours between breast feedings during the day or six hours throughout the night.
  • It’s been less than six months since you gave birth and your period hasn’t restarted.

If you can meet these criteria, exclusive breastfeeding is effective 90% to 98% at preventing pregnancy. Still, it’s demanding on a new mom and less effective if you don’t follow these requirements. That can happen when your new baby starts sleeping longer or you return to work.

Myth #3: You Shouldn’t Use the Pill if You’re Breastfeeding Your Newborn

The pill is safe to use while you’re breastfeeding. The hormones in the birth control patch may reduce your milk supply.

Some birth control methods may increase your risk of a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in the first few weeks after delivery. A DVT is a blood clot in the blood vessels deep within your body.

Because of these factors, you should wait four to six weeks after childbirth before starting the pill or other combined hormonal contraception. That allows enough time for your milk supply to become established. Your risk of a DVT also decreases in the weeks following delivery.

Myth #4: If You Use an IUD, You Won’t Be Able to Get Pregnant Later

An IUD (intrauterine device) is a T-shaped plastic device that uses copper or hormones to prevent an egg and sperm from joining. IUDs are a safe and effective contraception method that your health care provider can insert any time after delivery. Depending on the type you get, an IUD can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years.

IUDs don’t change or damage your uterus, and serious complications are rare. Your doctor can easily remove the IUD when you want to get pregnant, and fertility will return immediately.

Myth #5: It’s Safest for New Moms to Stick to Natural Birth Control After Childbirth

Natural birth control methods focus on becoming aware of when you’re most fertile and avoiding intercourse at that time. They include:

  • Using the calendar method to avoid sex during the time you might be most fertile.
  • Monitoring cervical mucus to determine when you’re most fertile. You should avoid intercourse when it’s transparent, slippery, and stretchy.
  • Using exclusive, frequent breastfeeding as birth control.

If done correctly, natural birth control might be effective. Still, it fails about 24% of the time, according to StatPearls. Not only are other forms of birth control more effective, but they’re also safer for you and your next baby.

After you give birth, doctors recommend waiting six months (may be longer for cesarean delivery and special circumstances) before getting pregnant again. Your body needs that time to heal and return to a normal, healthy state.

If you have questions about birth control after pregnancy, it’s best to talk to your doctor. They can provide the facts and help you choose the best and safest contraception method for you.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Postpartum Birth Control. Link.

March of Dimes. How Long Should You Wait Before Getting Pregnant Again? Link.

StatPearls [Internet] Natural Family Planning. Link.

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.