Breastfeeding and hormonal birth control

If you’re breastfeeding, and you’re not quite ready for your little one to have a baby sibling, finding the right birth control can be an important decision. While barrier methods like condoms or a diaphragm are just as effective while breastfeeding, many people find that hormonal birth control is more convenient and more reliable for them.

Is hormonal birth control safe during breastfeeding?

Yes. No negative health effects have been seen in babies whose parents use hormonal birth control while breastfeeding, so there’s nothing dangerous about using hormonal birth control during this time. Breastfeeding also does not change the effectiveness of hormonal birth control.

Concerns about hormonal birth control during breastfeeding are mostly focused on whether hormonal birth control containing estrogen reduces the amount of milk that the body produces. The research on the subject is conflicting. Some women do report a drop in milk production when taking estrogen-including hormonal birth control, especially women who have previously had trouble breastfeeding, women who have had certain medical or pregnancy conditions, or women who have had preterm delivery. Because of these unknowns, most healthcare providers recommend using a different type of birth control until the end of breastfeeding.

Other types of birth control

Progestin-only types of hormonal birth control, including oral birth control pills, hormonal IUDs, the Nexplanon implant, and the Depo-Provera injection are generally agreed to be perfectly healthy for use during breastfeeding by most major health organizations. When it comes to IUDs, you may be given the option of having one inserted immediately after giving birth. Current research suggests both the copper IUD and progestin-only IUDs are safe for breastfeeding parents and their infants in this scenario. When IUDs are inserted after 4-6 weeks postpartum, nursing parents tend to experience less discomfort during IUD insertion than people who are not nursing. IUDs are an excellent long-term option for birth control. 

  • E. Espey, et al. “Effect of progestin compared with combined oral contraceptive pills on lactation: a randomized controlled trial.” Obstetrics and Gynecology. 119(1): 5-13. Web. January 2012.
  • Family Physicians Inquiries Network. “Combined Oral Contraceptives for Mothers Who Are Breastfeeding.” American Family Physician. 72(7): 1303-1304. Web. October 1 2005.
  • J.J. Kelsey. “Hormonal contraception and lactation.” Journal of Human Lactation. 12(4): 315-8. Web. December 1996.
  • La Leche League International. “The Breastfeeding Answer Book.” March 2012 Update, Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Minipill (progestin-only birth control pill).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 24 2014. Web.
  • Victoria Nichols-Johnson. “The Breastfeeding Dyad and Contraception.” Breastfeeding Abstracts. 21(2): 11-12.
  • “Hormonal and nonhormonal birth control during breastfeeding.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries, March 2 2015. Web.
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