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While another baby might be the last thing on your mind right after the one you’ve just had, you should probably familiarize yourself with contraception options and plan your birth control well in advance. The possibility of getting pregnant is considerable soon after giving birth and it is best to get onto birth control to allow your body to heal and recover from the entire birthing process that it just underwent.
How Soon Can Women Get Pregnant After Delivering a Child?
Knowing how soon you can get pregnant again after delivery depends on some factors. . However, contrary to popular belief, you can get pregnant even before your first period. This is because the egg is resealed by your ovaries before your period arrives.
Most doctors and midwives will tell you that you can get your period anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks after your delivery. The egg is released two weeks prior to the beginning of your period. Soon after the egg is released, chances of conception arise. . Based on these calculations, you will be advised to start birth control 21 days after delivery.
Due to physical and biological changes in your body, you will most likely have to change your birth control plan after delivery. Because of this, it is best to devise a plan for the same beforehand.
When Can I Start Birth Control After Having a Baby?
Most women get their first period within 4 to 6 weeks after delivery. What most people forget is that a period occurs only when an unfertilised egg is ejected from the uterus. This means that you can get pregnant before you get your first period. An egg is released from the ovary for fertilisation two weeks before your period begins. Using these time frames your doctor will recommend that you start birth control after 21 days of delivery.
Some birth control methods are not recommended for women who intend on breastfeeding. Other methods require a certain amount of time for you to heal before they can be used. You must consult with your OB/GYN about the different options available that will suit your needs best.
Choices of Birth Control After Pregnancy
Adopting a contraceptive measure after your delivery can be zeroed upon after analyzing some factors such as your breastfeeding patterns, starting of periods or even your hormonal levels. Some contraceptive may not suit breastfeeding moms whereas some are absolutely safe for all regardless of how they feed their baby. Here are some of the commonly practised contraceptive methods for birth control.
1. Barrier Methods
Barrier methods involve the usage of external objects that can physically prevent sperm and an egg to meet. There are several barrier methods you can use as a contraceptive method.
- Condoms: Both male and female condoms are an effective birth control measure. It can be used as soon as you become sexually active again. They do not have any hormones in them and will not interfere with breastfeeding. Condoms, however, are not a hundred per cent effective.
- Diaphragm, Cervical Cap: These devices need to be fitted a few weeks after your delivery. Even if you were using them before your pregnancy, you will have to be refitted as your cervix, vagina, and uterus will change after the delivery. They are filled with spermicides that kill the sperm before it reaches the cervix. Also, they are available through prescription. These devices have a high rate of failure.
Barrier methods are one of the only birth control methods that do not interfere with lactation or contain any hormones that may alter your existing levels. They are safe but not 100% effective.
2. Hormonal Methods
Oral contraceptives are a form of the hormonal method of birth control. These pills are commonly referred to as ‘birth control pills’ and contain synthetic hormones that suppress ovulation and enable hostile condition development such as uterine line thinning that restricts egg implantation. Most doctors will ask you to use oral contraception only 4 to 6 weeks after delivery as this is sufficient time required for the risk of blood clots occurrence to reduce. Most oral contraceptives are a combination of estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone). Estrogen can limit the amount of milk you produce as well as lower the mineral content in the milk. This is one of the main reasons why breastfeeding mothers won’t be kept on oral combined pills but they can be kept on oral progesterone-only pills). There are also studies that indicate that these hormones can leach into breast milk and pass on to your baby. While there are no indications that this could affect your baby’s health, it is recommended that you do not take any chances. The other hormonal methods may come in the form of oral contraception (pills and mini pills), or can be directly administered in your body through other devices like ‘the birth control patch’ or even ‘birth control injections’.
3. Intra-Uterine Devices or IUD
These are T-shaped devices that are inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancies. One of the most efficient methods of contraception, doctors recommend that all women can benefit from IUDs. However, they are mostly used by women who’ve had at least one child. IUDs do not protect you from STDs. IUDs are of many types. A few can be left inside for 3-5 years or even 8 years. Depending on the type, the doctor will ask you when to get it changed.
4. Natural Methods
If you do not want to use hormonal or mechanical contraception, this method is the ideal choice for you. It involves observing changes in the body’s indicators of fertility such as cervical mucus and basal body temperature. The method is not exact and will change from woman to woman based on their menstrual cycle. Also, this method cannot be used for the first six months post-delivery, as the cervical mucus takes time to return to normal. The basal body temperature will not be accurate unless the mother gets six hours of continuous sleep which is quite a challenge being a new mother.
This method cannot be used until the menstrual cycle regularises. Until then, using other forms of contraception is recommended. You could also use the ‘withdrawal’ (taking the penis out of the vagina right before ejaculation) or pull out method though its efficiency is very low.
If you and your partner are sure that you do not want to have more children, then you can opt for sterilisation. Either you or your partner can opt to be sterilised. If the mother is getting sterilised, then the tube ligation or tubectomy procedure can be done at the end of the C-section or vaginal birth. However, you can also opt to get this procedure done after the uterus returns to its normal size, usually about 2 to 3 months after the delivery. This procedure will not interfere with your ability to nurse your baby.
A vasectomy for your partner is also an extremely viable option. It is a quick procedure that is carried out in the urologist’s office, under local anaesthesia and does not take more than 20 minutes. It is cheaper, faster and safer than female sterilisation. In this procedure, the two tubes carrying the sperm are cut by the doctor. After the procedure, a minimum of 15 to 20 ejaculations is necessary before the semen is devoid of sperm. This is because the tubes in the penis still contain some amount of sperm. A test is conducted to consider a man sterile. Vasectomy can be reversible however in extremely rare cases.
6. Emergency Contraception
You can use emergency contraception when your regular method of contraception fails or in case you’ve had unprotected sex. There are two types of emergency contraception available – IUCD (Intra-uterine Copper Device) and emergency contraceptive pills.
The IUCD must be inserted by a doctor or nurse within five days of having unprotected sex. This method can only be used four weeks after delivery. Emergency contraceptive pills can be used 21 days after delivery, however, check with your gynaecologist before using one.
7. Breastfeeding As Contraception
Lactational Amenorrhea Method or LAM, is a natural way for your body to send signals that you are not ready to ovulate just yet. . This method requires you to breastfeed your baby regularly. It is effective only up until you get your first period. You must however fulfil all the pre-requisite conditions for LAM to work. You must breastfeed exclusively every four hours during the day and every 6 hours during the night. This means that your baby gets his/her complete nutrition through breast milk only. This method will lose its efficiency once your baby starts to eat solid food, around the age of 6 months. You must switch to another birth control plan soon after. This method has been endorsed by the WHO.
Is Birth Control After C-Section Different Than Normal?
A C-Section requires a longer recovery time than vaginal birth. However, the cervix and vagina do not undergo any trauma in this procedure. Hence, tube ligation, a sterilisation procedure can be opted for post C-section. Effectively, this means that there is no requirement for multiple surgeries. Since the cervix and vagina do not undergo any form of trauma, IUD insertion can be quicker as well. IUD can be inserted during the cesarean itself but it will be inserted directly into the uterus through the cesarean scar and not through the vagina.
Apart from these considerations, contraceptive methods adopted for a mother who has undergone a C section is no more different than that for the one who underwent a vaginal birth. However, whichever be the case, ensure you discuss your options with your doctor.
Why Is Postpartum Birth Control Recommended?
It is easy to conceive soon after delivery. In fact, most doctors say that you can get pregnant as early as a month after delivery. A good postpartum birth control plan will ensure that no unintended pregnancies occur. Becoming pregnant immediately after delivery is not just harmful to your health, but will also hamper your ability to look after your baby.
Getting pregnant soon after delivery can take a toll on your physical as well as mental health. Fatigue, back pain and worries about looking after two small children can keep you up at nights. Prenatal care in your second pregnancy will be of prime importance as your body will need extra help and care.
How to Choose a Birth Control Method
Postpartum contraception is dependent on many factors that affect you post-delivery. These factors depend on the type of delivery and the lifestyle you lead.
Contraception method after delivery should be decided upon only after you decide on the following:
- Time: Some contraceptive methods such as condoms can be started immediately whereas others like an IUD can be used only a few weeks after delivery. Based on your need and body condition, you can decide which option is best for you after consulting your doctor.
- Breastfeeding: Most birth control methods will not hamper your ability to breastfeed your child. However, some methods like the ones involving hormonal interference will leech into the breast milk and are therefore not recommended for your baby. . A conversation with your doctor is best to figure out which birth control plans are most suited for you.
- Efficacy: Some birth control methods are more efficient than others. Sterilisation, especially male sterilisation, is one of the most efficient methods of birth control whereas the natural method may not always guarantee a 100% result.
The best way to decide your postpartum contraception method is to have an honest discussion with your doctor along with your partner. Chart a course for your family and decide when and if you want another child. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and disadvantages of breastfeeding. . Based on these choices for you and your family, you can decide on a plan of birth control that will take care of your health and your ability to look after your family.
Note: It is highly recommended that before attempting to use either medicated or natural contraception you visit a specialist. Be cautious of side effects while on contraception. Doctors can recommend alternative dosages and chemical combinations if particular combinations of contraceptive chemicals do not agree with your body.
It is important to understand that each body is unique and the reaction to contraceptives can be very specific to your immune system. Do not recommend or give anyone your contraceptive, direct them to your physician instead. Be wary of combining medication with your contraceptive, if you have been put on any new medication discuss the use of contraceptives and those medications with your physician. Keep your contraceptives out of reach if you have slightly older children at home.
A postpartum birth control plan is of prime importance and is best to nail down a few months before your delivery. Talk to your doctor about the different options available to you with regards to the same. If your delivery method is already decided, then you can tailor-make your plan accordingly. If not, a couple of options can be zeroed in on and you can select the option that suits you best.
Remember to be open to your partner when using contraceptives. In case of postpartum depression, please consult a therapist as well as your OB/GYN as some contraceptives can act as anti-depressants and help you improve your mental health. Some types of birth control may be harmful to you since your postpartum hormonal and chemical imbalances. Doctors may switch the type of birth control you are on after a few months, and this is extremely normal as it is due to your body’s chemical and hormonal composition returning to pre-pregnancy levels.