Family Planning and the Importance of Postpartum Birth Control | RMHP Blog

The weeks following birth, called postpartum, can be exciting, stressful, and filled with questions. Deciding whether you wish to get pregnant again or not can be a complex conversation. No matter your future family plans, postpartum birth control should be an important part of that discussion.

How Soon After Giving Birth Can You Get Pregnant?

Ovulation can happen within a few short weeks after giving birth. Once it does, you can get pregnant. Most women begin ovulating two weeks before their menstrual period. Breastfeeding may delay ovulation, but most women see it return within six months.

What is Birth Spacing, and Why Does it Matter?

Birth spacing is the time between a live birth and becoming pregnant again. This time frame is also called an interpregnancy interval (IPI). Your body needs time to recover after giving birth. Becoming pregnant too quickly can increase the risk of certain health conditions for your baby, including preterm birth, low birth weight, or being small for gestational age. Premature birth may lead to an increased risk of long-term health conditions, including cerebral palsy, behavioral issues, neurological disorders, asthma, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, hearing or vision issues, and others.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends waiting 18 months before becoming pregnant again after birth. However, talk to your doctor about what’s right for you. Women aged 35 or older, or women who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, may want to consider a shorter time frame.

Considering Your Postpartum Contraception Options

Women have many options for postpartum care birth control. Keep in mind that there are benefits, potential side effects, and risks of each method.

  • Intrauterine device (IUD) and implant, which a health care professional can insert immediately after delivery or at your first postpartum visit.
  • Combined hormonal methods, including a pill, vaginal ring, or patch, contain estrogen and progestin. You must wait a few weeks to begin these methods due to an increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These options are not recommended for everyone, including women who smoke and are over 35; have high blood pressure or a history of stroke, heart attack, or DVT; have a history of breast cancer, or have other certain medical conditions.
  • Progestin-only pills and injections, which you can start immediately after childbirth.
  • Barrier methods include spermicide, male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and the sponge. Some may be used anytime after childbirth, but there is a waiting period to use others. The sponge and cervical cap are much less effective in women who have given birth compared to those who have not.
  • Sterilization for women involves removing or closing off the fallopian tubes. This can be done while you are still in the hospital or as a separate procedure several weeks following delivery, depending on the procedure you choose. Male partners may opt for a vasectomy instead, as it is an easier and safer procedure.
  • Breastfeeding (lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM) may be a temporary, natural way of preventing pregnancy and should only be considered for six months or until your period begins. Breastfeeding requires exclusive, frequent feedings no longer than four hours apart during the day or six hours apart at night. Breastfeeding alone may not be a reliable form of birth control.

You may want to consider postpartum contraception options while you are still pregnant. Factors to think about are timing if you plan to breastfeed, and the method’s effectiveness. Talk to your health care provider about the method that may be right for you.