Contraception after birth: your options

Unsure of what your conctraception options are? Obstetrician Gynaecologist Dr Shazia Malik answers your questions

Being intimate with your partner after pregnancy can raise questions about contraception, but knowing what is available to you can help you decide on your chosen method. We have the answers to some of your most commonly asked questions.

I have just had my baby, when will my periods return?

It’s different for each woman, and depends on how you are feeding your baby. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you may not get a period until you stop. If you are bottle-feeding, your periods are likely to return five to six weeks after the birth. And if you’re mixed feeding, it’s somewhere in between.

Am I fertile right after giving birth?

Our bodies become fertile again as early as 21 days after childbirth. For this reason, unless you are intending to have another child immediately, it is recommended that you discuss your options with your health visitor or GP around a week after having your baby.

What methods can I use while breastfeeding?

Don’t assume that because you’re breastfeeding, that in itself is an effective contraceptive, even if you’re not having periods. Ovulation takes place two weeks before a period happens, so you will be unaware of when there is a risk of pregnancy.

Some methods can impact upon breast milk supply. This applies mainly to those that contain oestrogen, such as the combined oral contraceptive pill, the vaginal ring or combined skin patch. Apart from these, you can use most other methods. The most common are either condoms or the mini-pill – the progesterone-only pill. If you choose to have a coil, implant or diaphragm, it is best to wait until your sixweek postnatal check.

Are there any side effects of using contraception shortly after having a baby?

Most women do not have any major side effects, especially if you make an informed choice with your GP. If you are breastfeeding, then you may have no periods, especially while taking the mini-pill.

Can I use emergency contraception while breastfeeding or shortly after giving birth?

Yes. The coil must be inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse, but may not be suitable if you have had a caesarean section.

The emergency pill contains progesterone only, so can also be taken. Levonelle can be taken while breastfeeding, too. Although small amounts of the hormones contained in the pill may pass into your breast milk, it’s not thought to be harmful to your baby.

What kind of contraception should I use if I want to have another baby next year?

Use something that doesn’t affect your cycles too much, such as condoms or a coil.