If you’ve recently given birth, and aren’t planning to have another baby again so soon, it’s a good idea to get back on some form of birth control during the postpartum period. At Pill Club, we get a lot of questions from patients about how to ease back into birth control after giving birth—everything from which methods are safe to use and how soon you should start contraceptive use again, to whether birth control can interfere with breastfeeding or if it’s okay to go back on the same birth control pill that you were taking before pregnancy. To help new parent better understand their postpartum birth control options, and potential side effects of the pill, we turned to our medical team for answers.
Are there any risks from taking birth control pills soon after having a baby?
During the postpartum period, women should be aware that there’s a higher risk of developing blood clots in veins located deep in the body, a condition known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It’s worth noting that combination hormonal contraception pills with estrogen and progestin increase the risk of DVT even further. However, if you have no additional risk factors for DVT, you can start taking combined oral contraceptives 3 weeks after giving birth. At The Pill Club, we may offer our prescribers combination oral contraceptive pills starting at 6 weeks postpartum.
Is it safe to take birth control pills while breastfeeding?
Yes, it’s safe to take birth control pills while breastfeeding. Every woman is different, though, and you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist about birth control methods (both hormonal and non-hormonal) and make a decision based on your personal preference and medical history.
I read that birth control can affect the breast milk supply for breastfeeding birthing person’s. Is this true?
It’s possible in the first few weeks that hormonal birth control can affect your milk supply (though this is usually more common in women who are breastfeeding an older baby or have low milk supply to begin with). Most doctors will recommend progestin-only birth control, such as depo injection or progestin-only pills (POPs). You can start taking them any time after giving birth, and they’re less likely to affect a woman’s milk supply.
Does breastfeeding act as a contraceptive?
With so many variables, the safest option is always to use some form of birth control method to prevent pregnancy. That being said, there are several conditions under which breastfeeding suppresses a woman’s fertility. This is known as the lactational amenorrhea method and is characterized by the following conditions:
If the mother and baby meet these conditions, then the chance of pregnancy is less than 2% within six months after giving birth. But if the mother stops exclusively breastfeeding—or any of the other conditions change—her hormones will begin to change, and her body will allow ovulation to happen.
With life being so busy as a new parent, it’s easy to forget a pill here and there. What should I do if I miss a day or two?
If you miss one combination pill that has both estrogen and progestin, take the oral contraceptive as soon as you remember and your next pill at your regular time, or both pills at your regular time if you don’t realize you missed a pill until it’s time to take your next one. If you miss two pills, take both at the same time and two pills the next day. Then use a backup method like a condom until your next period.
If you miss a progestin-only pill (POP) (which most new birthing parent’s take), timing is a lot more important. If you miss a birth control pill by more than three hours, take your missed pill as soon as possible and use a backup birth control method for the next two days, like our very own condoms. If you’re a day late taking your pill, take your missed pill as soon as you remember and then your usual pill at the regularly scheduled time. If you have unprotected sex within 48 hours of missing your pill, we recommend taking emergency contraception. Following that, it’s safest to use a backup birth control method (or abstain from sexual intercourse) until you’ve taken your pill correctly at the same time for 2 consecutive days.
While getting pregnant probably isn’t top of mind for a new birthing parent who is caring for her newborn, it’s important to start using some form of birth control in the weeks after having a baby to avoid an unintended pregnancy. For more information about postpartum birth control options, we recommend taking a look at the FAQs from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And, as always, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before going back on any pills to help ensure you find an option that’s right for you.