Everything you need to know about using contraception after having a baby
After giving birth, it's important to start using contraception again to protect yourself from getting pregnant. Here's everything you need to know about the different types of contraception available.
If you're not looking to become pregnant again soon after having your baby, it's important to choose an effective method of contraception.
It’s important that you have an idea about what you’re looking for in your contraception in advance as you can get pregnant again as early as 21 days after having your baby, even if your periods have not returned. Whether you’re looking to return to your previous form of contraception, or looking for something new, your choice should take into account if you’re going to breastfeed, and how often. There are many different types of contraception, but the most valuable thing to consider is what works best for your body and lifestyle.
Contraception options immediately after giving birth
If you have your baby in hospital, your midwife will likely discuss your options before you go home.
If you plan to start using contraception after giving birth, it’s recommended that you start it around three weeks after the birth. However, the contraception options outlined below will provide protection almost immediately after giving birth, as long as you don’t have any medical risks. These are also safe to use if you’re breastfeeding:
Male or female condoms
IUD (intrauterine device) or IUS (intrauterine system):
You can choose to have an IUD or IUS inserted within 48 hours of giving birth, they’re both more than 99% effective. However, if an IUD or IUS is not inserted within 48 hours, you'll usually be advised to wait until 4 weeks after the birth to insert it.
They can remain effective for up to 10 years. If you feel ready to have another baby sooner than that, it’s easily removed and your fertility will return to normal.
The progestogen-only implant can be used right away and is more than 99% effective. If you’re fitted with an implant by day 21 after you give birth, and should be effective immediately.
If you get the implant after day 21, it won’t be effective for the first 7 days and you will need additional contraception.
Progestogen-only pill (mini pill)
The mini pill is more than 99% effective if taken correctly. You can start the progestogen-only pill on day 21 after the birth and you'll be protected against pregnancy straight away.
If you start the progestogen-only pill more than 21 days after giving birth, use additional contraception such as condoms until you've taken the pill for 2 days.
If you don’t breastfeed
If you're not breastfeeding, then you can use any contraception that suits you. Talk to your doctor about the options that suit your health and lifestyle, and when you can start to use them. You're likely to be fertile 2 weeks before your period. Your periods will return any time from around 6 weeks to 3 months after giving birth, depending on whether you exclusively breastfeed, formula feed or use a mix of both. Your periods may not restart until you reduce or stop breastfeeding. However, you may still become fertile, without knowing.
Points to consider if you’re breastfeeding
Estrogen may affect your breast milk supply in the first weeks after birth. If you plan to breastfeed, it’s best to delay the use of these birth control methods until around 4 to 6 weeks after delivering your baby. The following forms of contraception are fine if you’re choosing to formula feed your baby:
The progestogen-only injection is more than 99% effective, it’s recommended to wait until 6 weeks after birth to get it if you’re breastfeeding. If you start injections on or before day 21 after giving birth, you'll be immediately protected. If you start it after the 21st day, you’ll need to use additional contraception for the following seven days.
If you’re formula feeding, you can get it whenever you want, but it may cause some heavy and irregular bleeding if you wait less than 6 weeks.
Combined contraceptive pill, patch or vaginal ring
When taken correctly these forms of contraception are up to 99% effective. It’s recommended to take the combined pill 3 weeks post birth if you’re formula feeding. Or wait until your baby is at least six weeks old and at least half bottle fed, as it may reduce your supply of breastmilk.
Breastfeeding as a form of contraception
When you exclusively breastfeed your body naturally stops ovulating. You can’t get pregnant if you don’t ovulate. It can be up to 98% effective as a form of contraception if the following applies:
•Your baby is younger than 6 months old
•Your periods haven't returned
•You're exclusively breastfeeding your baby on demand (at least every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night)
The risk of pregnancy increases if:
- You breastfeed less often, with long intervals in between (both day and night)
- You stop feeding at night
- You use a dummy
- You give any artificial supplements
Once your baby stops exclusive breastfeeding, this method stops being effective and you’ll need to use another form of contraception.
Final thoughts from Kinhub
Whether you feel ready to have sex again or not, it’s good to have a plan for contraception. Some people feel more sexual than others after giving birth, while others need more time to adjust. It’s important to speak honestly with your partner about what you feel comfortable with. If you were using contraception before you became pregnant, that method may no longer be right for you, perhaps because your preferences have changed, or because you’re breastfeeding. There are many things to consider when deciding what type of birth control to use after pregnancy such as effectiveness, ease of use, side effects and your long-term family family planning goals. What matters the most is choosing something that feels right for you and works for your body.