The old wives’ tales that a woman cannot get pregnant shortly after giving birth or while breastfeeding are not true. In fact, you may want to review your birth control options even before you head into the delivery room because you can ovulate within the first month after giving birth. And if you have unprotected sex during this time — whoops! — you might get pregnant.
- Whether you might want to become pregnant within a year
- Taking more time to consider when or if you’d like to add to the family
- Figuring out if you are certain your family size is perfect as is
Keep 'em coming
If having another child within a year of giving birth is what you’re hoping to do, a hormonal patch or ring might be your best bet. Fertility returns within 30 days, on average, and the failure rate is significantly lower than those of condoms or diaphragms. If you wish to become pregnant sooner, the birth control shot is probably not your best bet, as there is a longer delay in ovulation.
Maybe yes, maybe no
Having a child is a big decision; you may not know if you’re ready to add to your family for some time after giving birth. Hormonal methods of birth control — the pill, patch, IUD, shot, implant or ring — stop your ovulation and are at least 91 percent effective when used properly.
Each of these methods deliver the hormones in a different way, with the IUD and implants being the most effective — a whopping 99 percent — and the best choice if you’re worried about forgetting to take the pill or change the patch or ring. Another benefit of an IUD or implant is that they can work from three to 10 years.
Oh, heck no
If you are certain that your family is complete, you might consider a vasectomy for your male partner or tubal ligation for yourself. However, it is important to remember that these both are permanent and likely irreversible procedures.
Dr. Shaffer says that each woman should carefully consider her choice of birth control and take into account her desires, plans, health risks and needs.
“Women who have certain medical conditions should avoid some hormonal contraceptives,” says Dr. Shaffer. “Furthermore, for breastfeeding mothers, the evidence is somewhat controversial regarding whether hormone-containing contraceptives can affect milk supply. However, it is important for these women to have effective birth control, and the CDC states that the advantages of contraception outweigh the risks.” Dr. Shaffer notes that women should not start hormonal birth control until at least six weeks postpartum.
She also counsels patients seeking sterilization to instead consider long-acting, reversible contraceptives — such as the IUD and contraceptive implant. These methods may actually have a lower failure rate and do not pose the risks associated with anesthesia required for female sterilization procedures. If you are certain you want to move forward with a sterilization procedure, Dr. Shaffer cautions that approximately 20 percent of women under age 30 regret doing so.
“Vasectomy is a very low-risk procedure that is typically performed in an outpatient setting and requires only local anesthesia,” she says. “Vasectomy is also considered to be more effective, less expensive and, in my opinion, is the best option for sterilization.”