I am close to the end of my pregnancy and I plan to breastfeed.  What birth control is safe with breastfeeding?  It is really important to me to avoid another pregnancy for several years at least.

Congratulations for choosing to breastfeed!  Breastfeeding is best for your baby and for you; there are so many benefits.  Birth control options are a bit more limited when you choose to breastfeed.  Birth control pills, the Nuva Ring and the Ortho Evra patch are not recommended when breastfeeding.

A wonderful choice for a new breastfeeding mom (and many other women for that matter) is the IUD.  IUDs are the number one method of birth control in the world.   And the IUD is the number one choice of birth control used by female doctors.  And with good reason.  They are highly effective (the MOST effective of all reversible methods), safe, and have a high satisfaction rate.  And both the Paragard (good for 10 years) and the Mirena (good for 5 years) are perfectly safe with breastfeeding.  An IUD can easily be inserted at your post-partum visit.  Once inserted, you have close to 100% effective birth control.  The IUD can be removed at any time you decide you are ready for another baby.

The Paragard has no hormones.  Foe some women, it can make periods heavier and more crampy, so if you had heavy periods to start with, it might not be right for you.

The Mirena has a hormone which can make your periods lighter and less crampy.  For some women, periods stop completely with the Mirena.  Disadvantages, though not common, include spotting for three to six months after insertion.

Breastfeeding does offer some contraceptive effect but cannot be relied upon as an effective method, especially if a woman has a strong desire to avoid pregnancy.

So if effectiveness is a big issue for you, talk to your health care provider about an IUD.  Many insurances cover the cost.   And IUDs, like all birth control methods, are free under the Affordable Care Act.

Chris Kuhni, WHNP

Do you have women’s health questions you’d like answered? Ask Chris.