Talking to your doctor about birth control at your postpartum visit
It’s been a while - probably at least nine months - since you’ve had to think about birth control, but now that your baby is out in the world, breathing oxygen and learning to wiggle her toes, you may be physically able to become pregnant again already, even if you haven’t had your period yet. This makes your upcoming postpartum appointment a great time for you to talk about contraception with your doctor before you have the kind of sex that can make a baby again.
Your body after giving birth
Healthcare professionals recommend waiting to have sex after delivery for a while to give the cervix time to close, for any tears from delivery to heal, and for postpartum bleeding to stop. Most healthcare providers give new parents the go-ahead for sex at the postpartum checkup four to six weeks after delivery, which makes this visit a great time to talk about contraception, if you have not already started or chosen a method.
Maybe you haven’t started your period again after giving birth, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t get pregnant yet. Many new moms have their first period after giving birth as early as 6 to 8 weeks after delivery. But when your period arrives, it shows that you’ve already been able to become pregnant. Ovulation, the stage of the menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant, happens before menstruation.
Postpartum contraception is important even to new parents who are planning to have more children. New moms are able to become pregnant again soon after giving birth, but babies who are conceived 18 months after their older siblings, or sooner, are at a higher risk for preterm birth, and low birth weight, and moms who are pregnant for the second time in 18 months or less have a higher risk of health complications related to pregnancy.
Types of contraception
Having a new baby around can make some types of contraception - like the pill - feel less convenient than they might have before. After all, if you’re sleeping whenever your baby sleeps, and she hasn’t quite caught on to day-night circadian rhythms yet, taking a pill at the same time every day can get tricky. If you feel confident continuing to use the contraception you’re used to, that’s great, though it’s still a good idea to talk through your choice with your doctor.
If you think this might be a good time to explore other birth control options, though, there are several very effective options that can be convenient for new parents.
- Intrauterine Device (IUD): An IUD is a piece of plastic containing copper or the hormone progestin that a health care provider places inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Depending on which type you choose, an IUD can provide birth control without you needing to do anything about it for 3 to 12 years - although it can be taken out by a doctor at any time, for any reason, and fertility returns quickly. Once placed by a doctor, it is one of the most effective and low-maintenance types of birth control.
- Implant: The birth control implant is a small, thin rod that is inserted into the upper arm, and provide hormonal birth control for up to three or four years. Like an IUD, the implant is highly effective and doesn’t require any maintenance. It is also reversible and can be removed at any time, for any reason, and fertility returns quickly.
- Lactational Amenorrhea method: If you’re exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you may already be using an effective form of birth control! Breastfeeding as birth control only works for a little while, since it is only effective when your baby feeds at least every four hours during the day, and at least every six hours at night. When used perfectly, the lactational amenorrhea method can be as effective as hormonal birth control at preventing pregnancy.
There’s no rush to have sex after having a baby before you’re ready - your body has just been through a series of big changes, and there’s no predicting how soon you’ll find yourself ready for sex. When you do, though, having a plan in place for birth control can be a great way to make sure your family is growing at a speed you’re ready for.
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