What are the medical options for post-partum birth control?

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You’ve just welcomed your new baby and you’re already anticipating all of those memories you’re going to make as a family. Somewhere between deciding on stroller options and pediatricians, you also have another choice to make – post-partum birth control. Most new parents aren’t quite ready to jump into another pregnancy just weeks or months after giving birth, so choosing a birth control method after baby arrives is an important decision for new parents.

Factors for Choosing a Post-Partum Birth Control

There are many factors that will influence the type of birth control that you decide to use post-partum.

  • The amount of time you plan to wait before having another child
  • Whether or not you plan to breastfeed your newborn
  • Convenience
  • Cost
  • Side effects
  • Any reactions to previous birth control methods
  • Health concerns or pre-existing conditions

Birth Control Choices for New Mothers

Intrauterine Devices (IUD)

The IUD is a preferred method for many new mothers because it addresses several of the factors that are common concerns for new parents. IUDs are inserted by your OBGYN into your uterus where they act as long-term birth control methods. This type of birth control can be inserted at your 6 week post-partum check-up. Some doctors will insert IUDs within the first 10 minutes post-partum after the delivery of the placenta, but the instances of expulsion (the IUD spontaneously shifting or coming out place) increases.

There are two basic types of IUDs, a hormone containing IUD often known by the brand name of Mirena, and ParaGard, which is an IUD that is wrapped in copper wire coils that continuously release small amounts of copper that prevents pregnancy.

  • Mirena releases a type of progestin that helps to thicken the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from reaching or being able to fertilize an egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus while it reduces instances of ovulation. Mirena is effective at preventing pregnancy for up to five years after insertion (unless removed by your physician before that time).
  • ParaGard causes the lining of your uterus to become inflamed and toxic to sperm, so that even if fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg won’t be successful at implantation in your uterus. This form of birth control is effective at preventing pregnancy for up to 10 years after insertion (unless removed by your physician before that time).

IUDs are both convenient and effective forms of birth control for new mothers. There is no daily pill to remember, and the methods are long-lasting so that if you don’t plan to have more children for several years, your birth control is already covered. It is also a safe form of birth control for mothers who are breastfeeding their infants. There is some mild to moderate discomfort when the device is inserted, but most women report than once the procedure is over that they don’t notice the IUD in place.

The Minipill

This type of birth control pill contains that same type of progestin hormone as found in the IUD Mirena. The obvious difference is that you are responsible for taking this pill every day. It is safe to begin taking the minipill immediately after birth, and it is also safe if you are planning on breastfeeding your baby. This method is only as effective as you make it by taking it regularly – the same time every day – and it is available through a prescription.

Traditional Birth Control Pills

These birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin, so it is usually recommended that you wait until your 6 week post-partum exam before you begin taking this form of birth control. Some physicians believe that if you are breastfeeding you shouldn’t use this form as it might reduce your milk supply or quality.

Condoms

If you do not begin a birth control method immediately after giving birth then your doctor might recommend that you use condoms until you attend your post-partum check-up where you can discuss other options. Condoms are effective when used correctly, but many new parents find that they are inconvenient, especially as you have to spontaneously take advantage of intimate moments with your partner in between diaper changes and late night feedings.

 

References:

http://familyplanning.uchicago.edu/research/studies-by-topic/postpartum-abcs/IUD.pdf

http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD003036/inserting-an-iud-right-after-childbirth-versus-a-later-time

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/paragard/MY00997

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mirena/MY00998

Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”