Getting ready for the birth of your baby involves a lot of planning and decision-making. But one decision you may not have thought about much during your pregnancy is your birth control options after your baby is born.
While providers typically recommend abstaining from sexual intercourse for four to six weeks following your baby’s birth as your body heals, it’s important to have a plan after that time. It’s possible to begin ovulating three to four weeks after pregnancy, though each woman is different.
You and your partner should discuss family planning so that you have a good idea of how many children you’d like to have, and how far apart you’d like to space them. It’s important to note that some health risks come from getting pregnant again very soon after you give birth.
Getting pregnant within six months of giving birth may put your next baby at risk for a premature birth, low birth weight, schizophrenia or congenital disorders. Besides protecting the health of your next baby, waiting to have another baby can also give your body time to heal, which is important to your overall health.
How to choose birth control
There are a number of birth control methods to consider, including barrier methods like condoms; hormonal methods like the birth control pill, ring, patch and injection; an intrauterine device (IUD), which is a small piece of plastic or copper that is inserted into your uterus for 3, 5 or 10 years; or an implant, which is a small piece of plastic inserted under the skin of your upper arm and releases the hormone progestin for up to 3 years.
In the first few months following your baby’s birth, you can also use breastfeeding as birth control — when you’re breastfeeding, your body naturally stops ovulating. This option, called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), may sound very appealing; however, it is only effective if you’re exclusively breastfeeding at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night. LAM may not be practical or convenient for many women, and you should discuss this option with your provider.
Here are some things to consider as you think about birth control options:
- When you want to have another baby – An IUD provides longer-term birth control than some of the other methods. If you and your partner are done having children, you can discuss more permanent options with your provider.
- Whether you’re breastfeeding – All forms of birth control are safe to use while breastfeeding; however, some birth control options that include estrogen should not be used in the early weeks of breastfeeding, because they could affect your milk supply.
- What you’ve used in the past – You may want to return to a form you used before, such as a birth control pill. However, you may want to try something different. It’s best to discuss your options with your provider before you give birth.
Your Geisinger provider can help you decide which method of birth control is right for you by answering your questions and having a thoughtful discussion about family planning.