Birth Control for Breastfeeding Women
Contrary to popular legend, breastfeeding women can become pregnant. However, methods of birth control exist that present no problems for either the nursing mom or her baby.
The health benefits that breastfeeding offers newborns are widely known and well-documented by numerous studies, and the convenience and cost savings associated with breastfeeding are significant. While most women who choose to breastfeed do so until their baby gets their first teeth (age 4-6 months), some will continue for much longer, often into the child's second year.
Since most women resume sexual activity several weeks after delivery, the need for effective birth control is an important consideration. The ideal method is one that is completely safe for the newborn infant, free of side effects for the nursing mother, and highly effective in preventing pregnancy. While no current method fits that exact description, there are several good options available to the woman who chooses to breastfeed.
The methods available to breastfeeding women include hormonal contraceptives, barrier methods, the intrauterine device (IUD), and sterilization. If you plan to breastfeed, talk to your healthcare provider before your delivery about which method might be best for you.
The common misconception that breastfeeding itself prevents pregnancy has consistently been proven wrong. The fact is, if you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months of life, you have a lower probability of becoming pregnant.
Breastfeeding can be a natural way to prevent pregnancy after birth with the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM). While you are nursing, hormones that cause ovulation are not produced. If ovulation does not occur, pregnancy cannot happen. Is this an effective method? Not compared to other birth control methods. While it is true that a nursing mom is less likely to become pregnant than a mother who bottlefeeds, there is no guarantee that pregnancy will not occur if birth control is not used.
Last reviewedSeptember 2013by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.