Is It Safe to Take Birth Control Pills during Breastfeeding

Are Contraceptive Pills Safe While Breastfeeding?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Having just experienced a full pregnancy and childbirth, rarely is any woman in the mood or the state to go through that all over again within a few months. Which is why sexually-active nursing mothers tend to wonder about the options they might have for contraception or the safety of taking an emergency contraceptive while breastfeeding. Each pill affects the body differently which also means it affects the baby differently, too.

Are Birth Control Pills Effective During Breastfeeding

Yes. Whether you are breastfeeding or not, birth control pills are meant to do their job, irrespective of the condition. Most of the pills work on those lines and offer a near 99% protection from pregnancy, even if you are breastfeeding.

What Kind of Pill is Safe While Breastfeeding – Combination, Progesterone Only, or Morning Pills

One of the prime reasons causing nursing mothers to worry is the possibility of the hormones present in contraceptives, finding their way into the baby’s body via breast milk. This leads to the question of what birth control pill is good for breastfeeding mothers.

Hormonal pills are generally either progestin-only contraceptives or a combination type. Although both pills are pretty good at preventing unwanted pregnancies, a progesterone-only contraceptive pill is usually considered a better fit for a nursing mother.

A combination pill contains progesterone as well as estrogen. Estrogen is known to impact the breastmilk production process directly and bring about a reduction in its quantity. This reduction can be as substantial as nearly 40 per cent. This can spell a problem for your baby, especially in the early months of his first year, when his dependency on and demand for the milk are the highest. Most doctors recommend taking these pills once your baby has started having solids regularly, at which point a reduction in breast milk will not affect your child much.

A progesterone-only pill is highly recommended for pregnant women since it contains only progesterone. This, too, offers the same level of reliability as the combination pill. However, there is a small catch: in order for these pills to be effective, they need to be consumed at the same time every day. If the consumption is delayed by even a few hours, their effect might not be optimal and, could even lead to further complications.

Side Effects of Contraceptive Pills on Breastfeeding Mom

When opting for these contraceptives, there are certain effects that a nursing mother can experience which are unwanted and can quite discomfort, too.

  • A combination pill containing progesterone and estrogen does prevent pregnancy but causes a substantial impact on the level of milk.
  • If pills are taken prior to the completion of the six months exclusive breastfeeding period, it can lead to breastfeeding issues.
  • General side effects that affect all women, whether they are breastfeeding or not, are also bound to occur. These include the presence of irregular bleeding or spotting, as well as darkening of the skin.
  • Certain pills also cause a feeling of nausea, along with the retention of water in the mother. Breasts tend to get tender as well and ache if the baby latches on too intensely while suckling on them.
  • Hormones also tend to cause mood fluctuations in the mother, which need to be kept in check.
  • Mothers who have had pregnancy-induced diabetes stand a risk of developing type 2 diabetes if opting for progesterone-only pills. Taking your doctor’s advice is recommended in such cases.
  • In extreme cases, contraceptive pills have known to cause erroneous blood clotting as well.
  • There have been instances when consumption of contraceptive pills has led to various problems such as blurry vision, intense headaches, breathing problems, pain in the chest and the abdomen, limb pain or even total numbness.

Woman experiencing side-effects of contraceptives

Side Effects of Pills on Breastfed Baby

Since a baby is dependent on the mother and gets all the nutrition from her, there are chances that a baby who breastfeeds can experience certain side effects of the contraception as well.

  • The most problematic side effect that the contraceptive pill has is a reduction in breast milk production. When milk production in the mother reduces due to consumption of combination pills, the baby fails to get enough milk from the mother. This could lead him to become fussy and irritated.
  • Replacing breast milk with formula milk can satisfy your baby’s hunger but robs him of various useful nutrients and antibodies present in the mother’s milk.
  • Certain babies have been observed to get more irritated than usual when mothers start taking contraceptives. A strong link between the two is yet to be determined.
  • In the case of extremely young babies, the hormones entering the baby’s body could be problematic to him since his liver has not matured enough to process them effectively.

Baby crying in woman's arms

Things to Remember

Before proceeding to opt for either form of birth contraception, it is best to understand certain aspects of it clearly.

  • Do not begin any form of medication, even oral contraception, unless you have discussed that option with your doctor. He will be able to tell you the right one to go for given the conditions of you and your baby.
  • Avoid taking combination birth control pills as much as possible for the initial months of your baby’s growth. Your milk is extremely essential for him.
  • At times, even a lower dose of the contraceptive can help in preventing unwanted pregnancies. But this, too, should be confirmed with the doctor lest you end up with an unwanted pregnancy after all.
  • If you seem to experience a substantial drop in your milk supply, it is best to bring this to your doctor’s notice. One of the other things that can be done is to shift to a different form of contraceptive for some time.
  • Contraceptive pills could cause insomnia or fatigue at times. Make sure you take enough rest.
  • Oral contraceptives are no protection from sexually-transmitted diseases. Also, condoms are a much better option in the initial weeks instead of oral contraceptives.

Your baby’s well-being is absolutely paramount when it is growing up. And that, too, is a result of you maintaining optimal health of your own body. Make an informed choice when going for oral contraceptives. Advise your partner to make use of condoms instead to reduce chances of any side-effects affecting both you and the baby.

Also Read: Cold Medicine during Breastfeeding

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