Family planning is something you will need to think about quite soon after your baby is born. We examine your options for contraception after giving birth.
Contraception after giving birth
Contraception is something you need to consider sooner than you might think, as you can become fertile as little three weeks after your baby’s birth. If you are satisfied that your family is complete, then ask your GP about long-acting methods of contraception. But if you want to have more children, it’s a good idea to choose an option that can easily be paused allowing your body to return back to normal.
Contraceptives can be divided into short-acting, long-acting and permanent; unless you are planning to have another baby in the next year or two, then you should consider using a short-acting contraceptive.
When choosing contraception, you need to consider:
- How effective it is.
- Possible risks and side-effects.
- Plans for future pregnancies.
- Personal preference.
- If you have a medical condition, or take medicines that interact with the method.
Natural family planning is a form of birth control where natural signs, such as body temperature, are used to identify when a woman is at her least and most fertile during each menstrual cycle. There are two main methods of natural family planning: methods based on fertility awareness, which involve avoiding sex during fertile periods and the lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM), which can be used during the first six months after giving birth. Talk to your GP or public health nurse about the different contraceptive options for you and your partner.
Dr Catriona Henchion, medical director of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) answers our question about contraception.
Q. When can a woman expect to start ovulating again post birth?
A. A woman can expect to start ovulating any time after three weeks post birth. If she is breastfeeding, there are some guidelines to follow if she is relying on the lactational amenorheoea methtod (LAM) as a form of contraception:
1. If a woman is fully breastfeeding (no bottles or supplements)
2. The baby feeds every four hours minimum by day
3. There is no more than a six hour break at night
4. She does not get any periods, she is protected against pregnancy by about 98% up to six months postnatal. If any of the above conditions are not met, a woman could ovulate at any time. For example, if a woman expresses a feed to have a break of longer than four hours (to go work for instance), she breaks guideline two.
Q. What type of contraceptive is safe to take/use when breastfeeding?
A. All barrier methods (male/ female condom, cap/ diaphragm) or progesterone only contraception can be used while breastfeeding. The progesterone only pill can be used from three weeks, the contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera) from six weeks, the contraceptive implant (Implanon) from three weeks and intrauterine systems (IUS), for example Mirena, Jaydess and the copper coil, can be used from four-five weeks. Breastfeeding significantly increases the risk of uterine perforation during IUS; insertions are usually deferred to 12-16 weeks.
Q. How soon after childbirth can a woman start to have sex again?
A. As soon as a woman feels ready. It depends on a woman’s birth experience and recovery period, for example a woman who had a difficult birth, a Caesarean section or who experiences postnatal depression or similar, may want to delay having sex.
Q. What is safest amount of time to leave between pregnancies?
A. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends to leave the same length as a pregnancy between pregnancies (usually 9-12 months minimum), as it takes this much time to recover.
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Family planning – get it right
Contraception after kids
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