If you’ve recently given birth, and aren’t planning to have another baby again so soon, it’s a good idea to get back on some form of birth control during the postpartum period. At Pill Club, we get a lot of questions from patients about how to ease back into birth control after giving birth—everything from which methods are safe to use and how soon you should start using contraception again, to whether birth control can interfere with breastfeeding or if it’s okay to go back on the same pill that you were taking before pregnancy. To help new moms better understand their birth control options, we turned to our medical team for answers.
During the postpartum period, women should be aware that there’s a higher risk of developing blood clots in veins located deep in the body, a condition known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It’s worth noting that combination hormonal birth control pills with estrogen and progestin increase the risk of DVT even further. However, if you have no additional risk factors for DVT, you can start taking combination birth control pills . 3 weeks after giving birth.
Yes, it’s safe to take birth control pills while breastfeeding. Every woman is different, though, and you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist about birth control methods (both hormonal and nonhormonal) and make a decision based on your personal preference and medical history.
It’s possible in the first few weeks that hormonal birth control can affect your milk supply (though this is usually more common in women who are breastfeeding an older baby or have low milk supply to begin with). Most doctors will recommend progestin-only birth control, such as depo injection or progestin-only pills (POPs). You can start taking them any time after giving birth, and they’re less likely to affect a woman’s milk supply.
With so many variables, the safest option is always to use some form of birth control method to prevent pregnancy. That being said, there are several conditions under which breastfeeding suppresses a woman’s fertility. For example:
If the mother and baby meet these conditions, then the chance of pregnancy is less than 2% within six months after giving birth. But if the mother stops exclusively breastfeeding—or any of the other conditions change—her hormones will begin to change, and her body will allow ovulation to happen.
If you miss one combination pill that has both estrogen and progestin, take the pill as soon as you remember and your next pill at your regular time, or both pills at your regular time if you don’t realize you missed a pill until it’s time to take your next one. If you miss two pills, take both at the same time and two pills the next day. Then use a backup method like a condom until your next period.
If you miss a progestin-only pill (POP) (which most new moms take), timing is a lot more important. If you miss a pill by more than three hours, take your missed pill as soon as possible and use a backup birth control method for the next two days. If you’re a day late taking your pill, take your missed pill as soon as you remember and then your usual pill at the regularly scheduled time. If you have unprotected sex within 48 hours of missing your pill, we recommend taking emergency contraception. Following that, it’s safest to use a backup birth control method (or abstain from having sex) until you’ve taken your pill correctly at the same time for 2 consecutive days.
While getting pregnant probably isn’t top of mind for a new mom who is caring for her newborn, it’s important to start using some form of birth control in the weeks after having a baby to avoid an unintended pregnancy. For more information about postpartum birth control, we recommend taking a look at the FAQs from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And, as always, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before going back on any pills to help ensure you find an option that’s right for you.