Do I need contraception if I’m breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can help to delay when you start ovulating and having periods again after giving birth.
Breastfeeding can help to prevent pregnancy on three conditions:
- If your baby is less than six months old
- If you're fully breastfeeding (only giving your baby breast milk)
- If you haven't had your first period since giving birth
Breast feeding can be 98% effective in preventing pregnancy if all three conditions apply. But the risk of pregnancy becomes higher:
- if you are breastfeeding less often
- if there are long intervals between feeds during the day or night
- if the baby is having other liquids as well as your breast milk
- if your periods return
Once your baby is more than 6 months old, you will need to use another contraceptive method even if you are fully breastfeeding and haven’t had a period.
Which methods are safe if I’m breastfeeding?
The contraceptive implant, injection, progestogen-only pill, IUD, IUS and condoms are safe if you are breastfeeding. If you're using a hormonal method of contraception, a very small amount of hormone will enter the milk, but this has not been shown to be harmful to breastfed babies.
Emergency contraception (IUD and emergency pills) are safe when breastfeeding. If you use the IUD or emergency pill containing levonorgestrel you can continue to breastfeed normally. If you use the emergency pill containing ulipristal acetate (ellaOne®) you should not breastfeed for one week after taking it. During this week you should express and discard your breast milk, because the effects of ellaOne® on breastfed babies have not been studied.
Which methods are not suitable?
The combined pill, contraceptive patch and vaginal ring may make it harder for your milk to come in (because they contain the hormone estrogen). So if you’re breastfeeding, it’s best to wait until your baby is six weeks old before starting one of these methods.
Fertility awareness methods are less reliable while breastfeeding because it is difficult to identify the signs of fertility. You should have 3 normal, regular periods before using fertility awareness methods, and this is unlikely to happen in the first 6 months after giving birth if you are breastfeeding.
Recommended methods: Implant, Injection, Mini pill, IUD, IUS, Condoms