Before you adjust to life with a newborn, you should think about family planning and birth control. You may want to grow your family right away, but your doctor will likely recommend spacing out your pregnancies.
As such, you may be wondering:
- Should I go on birth control after having a baby?
- What is the best contraception method after giving birth?
- Is the birth control pill safe postpartum?
- When can I start taking the pill after giving birth?
Learn why doctors recommend birth control after pregnancy and get answers to commonly asked questions about postpartum birth control.
Why Do Doctors Recommend Birth Control After Pregnancy?
Pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding all take a toll on your body. After giving birth, your body needs time to heal and recover. Most people should wait six months after having a baby before getting pregnant again.
That time allows you to:
- Heal from any incisions or surgery during delivery.
- Replace essential vitamins and minerals like folic acid or iron.
- Restore the healthy bacteria in your vagina, which get passed to your baby during delivery.
- Enjoy your new family before life changes again.
Doctors recommend starting birth control right after delivery. Birth control reduces your chance of getting pregnant and the risk of health problems for you and your next baby.
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How Do I Know When to Start Family Planning After Giving Birth?
The best time to start family planning is while you’re still pregnant. Once your baby is born, your days (and nights) will be full. It may be difficult to make time for a doctor’s visit before your postnatal checkup.
It’s impossible to know when you’ll start ovulating again after you give birth. Once it happens, you can get pregnant again, even before your period comes back. So, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and plan postpartum birth control before you deliver.
A significant benefit of planning is that you can start several types of birth control immediately after delivery. That means one less thing on your to-do list.
What Is the Best Contraception After Birth?
There are several effective types of contraception you can start immediately after birth. It’s important to discuss the pros and cons of each with your doctor so you can choose the best method for you.
These options are all safe to use while breastfeeding:
- Birth control shots. These prevent pregnancy for up to three months and you can get a shot immediately after giving birth.
- An IUD. Your doctor can place this device in your uterus right after a vaginal birth or c-section. It prevents pregnancy for up to 10 years, depending on the type you get. If you decide you want to have another child, your doctor can easily remove an IUD.
- A birth control implant. An implant is a thin, flexible rod that’s about the size of a matchstick. It’s inserted just under the skin in your upper arm, and you can get it right after giving birth. It works for up to three years, but it might cause unpredictable bleeding once your periods return. Your doctor can remove your implant when you decide to try for another pregnancy.
When Can I Start Taking the Pill After Giving Birth?
Although it’s a convenient and popular option for birth control, you shouldn’t start taking the pill immediately after giving birth unless it is a progestin-only pill. The same is true for other combined hormone birth control methods like the vaginal ring or patch. Discuss your goals and options with your doctor prior to delivery so that you have a plan in place.
In the first few weeks after giving birth, postpartum people have a higher risk of DVT or deep vein thrombosis. That’s a blood clot in the veins deep within your body. The hormones in these forms of birth control further increase that risk.
Because of DVT risk, you should wait four to six weeks after giving birth to start taking the pill again. It’s important to talk to your doctor about these combined hormone birth control methods, especially if you have other DVT risks. They’ll let you know if and when it’s safe to start them.
The pill, vaginal ring, and patch are safe to use while breastfeeding, but they might interfere with your milk production. You might want to wait until breastfeeding is going smoothly before starting any of these. That can take between four to six weeks.
What About Barrier Methods of Birth Control?
Barrier methods prevent an egg and sperm from meeting during sex. They include condoms, the sponge, a diaphragm, the cervical cap, and spermicides. These are less effective at preventing pregnancy but far more effective than not using birth control.
You can use condoms and a spermicide when your doctor gives you the ok to become sexually active again. But you should wait six weeks after birth to use the sponge, diaphragm, or cervical cap. That’s because your uterus is still changing, and it takes about six weeks to return to its usual size.
If you used a cervical cap or diaphragm before you got pregnant, you’ll need to get refitted. The size and shape of your cervix can change during pregnancy and childbirth.
Is Breastfeeding an Effective Method of Birth Control?
Breastfeeding your newborn can help to prevent pregnancy, but should not be considered an effective method of birth control. Breastfeeding your newborn more often reduces the likelihood that you’ll ovulate. Without ovulation, you can’t get pregnant.
But breastfeeding as contraception isn’t 100% effective — some people start ovulating again even when breastfeeding exclusively. There are a few additional caveats, too:
- You have to feed your baby from your breast exclusively. The more you supplement with bottled formula, the more likely ovulation and your period are to return.
- It’s vital to breastfeed your baby often to prevent ovulation. You shouldn’t go longer than four hours during the day or six hours between feeding or pumping throughout the night.
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.