Mother slumped over, holding a mug and a packet of contraceptive pills near a baby bottle

Now that you’ve had a baby, you may want to take a pause before adding more members to the family (if any at all!). After all the changes your body’s been through, you might be wondering what your options are when it comes to using contraception. Let’s take a look at the different types you can use and when you can start taking them.

Becoming a mum brings many changes; your body may feel and look very different, your period might act up after giving birth, and you could also experience a completely new kind of discharge. Postpartum depression is also common during this time. Not to mention you may have picked up new habits or let go of old routines. So what about contraception? Does the way or type of contraception you take need to be different now that you’ve given birth?

When should I start taking contraception again after giving birth?

First things first. There are no rules about when to start having sex after giving birth. You may feel sore, tired or really just not in the mood and that’s all perfectly normal – your body has just gone through a lot so there’s no need to rush anything! The right moment is entirely up to you, but when the time comes, keep in mind that you can actually get pregnant pretty easily even after having a baby. 

If you go back to being sexually active and want to avoid getting pregnant again, then it’s recommended that you start using contraception as soon as possible after your delivery. [1] This is because even though your periods may not have returned yet, your cycle goes back to business very quickly and you will ovulate before you get your period (which means that you could soon be feeling those little kicks in your belly again). 

Regardless of whether you want another baby right away or not, take into account that getting pregnant soon after giving birth can put you at risk of infections as well as of having a premature birth next time. [2] So it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or nurse for advice based on your specific needs and medical history before jumping into anything.

What are the different types of postpartum contraception and when can I start taking them?

Usually, choice of contraception is based on what suits your body, lifestyle and medical records, along with personal preference. However, the decision you make on contraception after pregnancy should also consider how long it’s been since you’ve given birth and if you’re breastfeeding or not, so make sure to speak with a medical professional about what suits you best. To get you prepared for that conversation, here’s a few options you can explore.

Contraceptive options immediately after giving birth

If you’re keen to start taking contraception right after welcoming your child into the world, then you can usually choose from the following;

  • the contraceptive implant or injection
  • the progesterone only pill (also known as the “mini pill”)
  • condoms (male or female).

Here’s another tip: although it’s recommended that you wait 4 weeks to get an IUD or IUS (the copper or hormonal coil), it is also possible to get it within 48 hours after giving birth if you’ve requested it ahead.

When you think of all the types of contraceptive methods, breastfeeding may not be the first to come to mind, but some women+ use it as a form of natural contraception, medically known as the lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM). [3] Just remember to take into account that certain factors such as how old your baby is, how often you breastfeed and what other food you give your child will affect the effectiveness of this method, so you may want to check in with your doctor before you rely on it.


Contraceptive options 3 weeks after giving birth

If you’re not breastfeeding 3 weeks after giving birth, you can now look into the combined pill, a contraceptive patch, or vaginal ring, but your doctor will need to check that you are not at risk of having a blood clot. Be mindful that if you are breastfeeding, the pill is not yet an option, as the hormones in it may reduce the amount of milk your breasts produce.

Contraceptive options 4 weeks after giving birth

If you didn’t manage to get your IUD or IUS fitted within the first 48 hours after giving birth, no worries! Now you’ll be able to get either of them.

Contraceptive options 6 weeks after giving birth

If you choose to breastfeed or if there have been any medical complications during your delivery or pregnancy, then it’s usually recommended that you only start using the combined pill, contraceptive patch or vaginal ring 6 weeks after giving birth. 

Similarly, you can begin using a diaphragm or cap at this time too. But remember that your vagina can change in shape and size after giving birth (you have pushed a small baby out of it after all!), so if you used either of these methods before you were pregnant, it’s best to check with a medical professional if it still fits properly. That way you can ensure these contraception methods can work effectively. [4]

Picking postpartum contraception may seem tricky or even overwhelming, but knowing all the options out there can help you make an informed choice. Not only will this help protect your health, but it will keep the decision of when (if) to have more children in your hands. If you want to learn more about life postpartum, why not head over to our articles on discharge after giving birth and postpartum depression?

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.


[References]

[1]  Edelman DA, Goldsmith A, Shelton JD. Postpartum contraception. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 1981 Aug;19(4):305-11. doi: 10.1016/0020-7292(81)90080-1. PMID: 6119259.

[2]  https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/best-practice-papers/best-practice-paper-1---postpartum-family-planning.pdf

[3]  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/natural-family-planning/#lactational

[4]  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/when-contraception-after-baby/

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