A Straightforward Guide to Birth Control After Baby

mom with new babyAfter baby arrives, you're sleep-deprived and preoccupied. Still, whether you're thinking about having another baby right away or not anytime soon, birth control SHOULD be on your mind.

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The reason?

For starters, "Your body will release its first postpartum egg before you menstruate, so you can get pregnant," explains Ursula Balthazar, MD, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medical Associates in San Antonio, Texas.

So much for the theory that you're "immune" from getting pregnant for a few months after delivery.

And while getting knocked up less than a year after baby #1 may be just fine with you, keep in mind that some research links closely spaced pregnancies to a higher risk of placenta or uterine rupture, low birth weight, pre-term birth, and even autism in the second child.

Here's what you need to keep in mind.

If you're breastfeeding:

Many women who are exclusively breastfeeding opt to use THAT as a natural form of birth control. It's called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) and can last around six months after you deliver. (So long as you are really providing the ONLY source of nourishment for your baby and not giving ANY formula -- this is crucial.)

But while LAM does offer significant protection, "I don't usually recommend that women rely on this as a form of contraception," says Jason James, MD, medical director of FemCare OB/GYN and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Baptist Hospital of Miami, Florida. "There are plenty of other options that are much more reliable."

Generally speaking, you'll want to avoid birth control that contains estrogen. "Not due to safety concerns, but because they may decrease breast milk supply," Dr. James clarifies.

That means a lot of typical options -- like most oral contraceptive pills, the patch, or the vaginal ring -- aren't going to be first-line options.

A better alternative when you're nursing? Progesterone-only pills (also known as POPs or the "mini-pill"). Just be aware: "[They] may result in irregular spotting or periods," says Dr. James.

Wait until six weeks after delivery to start birth control, advises Dr. Balthazar. That way, your breast milk will be well established and less prone to any fluctuations caused by the Pill.

More from The Stir: The Easy & Natural Birth Control Method We've All Been Waiting For Is Here

If you're not breastfeeding (or only sometimes):

Super-easy: You can start a progestin-only pill right after delivery.

If you're not in a hurry to get pregnant again:

Long-acting reversible contraceptives (aka LARCs) are the way to go, says Dr. James. "These include IUDs, of which there are currently four options on the market, one of which [Paragard] has no hormones," he says.

You can also get a progesterone injection that lasts three months or an implant that's placed under the skin of your arm and will be effective for three years.

Side effects of LARCs can include irregular bleeding, spotting, or a change in your cycle. And if you do choose a LARC that contains hormones, you can have side effects because of that as well, so talk to your OB/GYN about what's best for you.

If you're totally DONE having kids:

Yes, you've got permanent options. Your husband can get a vasectomy, for instance. Or you can get your tubes tied -- which some women, says Dr. James, even opt to do at the time of their C-section, since it cuts back on recovery and cost. (If you've had a vaginal delivery, you should wait at least six weeks.)

But while this will, of course, provide excellent birth control, it's also a big decision -- particularly if you're a young mom.

"There's good data that younger women under the age of 30 may have tubal regret -- that is, they may later in life regret the decision to tie their tubes," says Dr. James.

"I always make sure a couple is absolutely certain they're finished having children, since reversal is not simple and can be quite expensive," he notes.

And in that first year of having a kid, we're guessing you have enough on your mind as it is.

birth control after baby

Image via © iStock.com/RuslanDashinsky and pixabay.com

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