Whether you’ve recently given birth or are chasing after toddlers, there are several birth control methods available if you are not ready to expand your family just yet.
We get it, the world of birth control options can be confusing - but we’re here to help. At Twentyeight Health, a mission-driven women’s telehealth provider, we bring you doctor-vetted advice to help you find reliable methods as you progress through every stage of motherhood. Neat, huh? Here’s our top advice:
For your first 3 weeks after giving birth, it’s not recommended to use any birth control options that contain estrogen (such as the combination pill with estrogen, the patch or the ring). Estrogen can put you at higher risk of a blood clot. However, you still have options!
There are several progestin-only methods including the progestin-only birth control (known as the “minipill”) and the birth control shot, which can be self-administered at home or by a clinician at the doctor’s office. If you’re looking for something more long-term, an IUD or implant can be provided by your doctor during a postpartum visit.
During the first 6 months after childbirth, breastfeeding can be a natural birth control method for most women when it’s done on a regular schedule and without any supplements. This means that you’re exclusively breastfeeding every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night. Your baby needs to consume only breast milk, and it needs to come from the breast, not a bottle. With this regimen, the risk of pregnancy is <5%.
But it’s not always easy sticking to this schedule and there are many reasons you might want to supplement breast milk with other alternatives. In those scenarios, breastfeeding moms can use progestin-only birth control, such as progestin-only pills (also known as minipills), since estrogen can sometimes reduce milk supply. In addition to helping maintain a higher volume of milk supply, progestin-only pills are considered to be safer for breastfeeding mamas and babies.
If you’re…experiencing migraines
During the postpartum and breastfeeding months, it’s common to experience hormonal fluctuations. If you’re someone who experiences hormonal migraines, birth control can help. Birth control prevents the fluctuation in estrogen that happens before your period, which can steady your hormone levels and mitigate or even eliminate hormonal migraines altogether.
It’s important to note that if you’re someone that experiences migraine with aura, you shouldn’t take birth control methods that contain estrogen because estrogen could put you at increased risk of blood clots and stroke. If that’s you, you can consider progestin-only pills or the birth control shot instead.
If you’re…looking to skip your periods
If you’re looking to skip your periods altogether, there are many safe ways with different birth control methods:
- To skip your periods, you could try extended-cycle pills that have 91 pills in a pack and are designed so that periods only occur 4 times per year. Or, with brands that have 28 pills in a pack, you can take the 21 active pills, skipping the 7 day placebo pills and start the next pack immediately on the 22nd day. With brands that have 21 pills in a pack, you can take the 21 active pills and start the next pack immediately on the 22nd day.
- Combination pills have active pills that contain hormones, and inactive pills, or “placebo pills.” To skip your period, don’t take the inactive pills and start your next pack right away.
- The ring is designed to be removed after 3 weeks and then you wait 1 week before inserting a new ring. To skip your period, insert the new ring every 3 weeks.
- The patch is designed to be applied once a week for 3 weeks and then you typically skip a week when you’re on your period. To skip your period, you would start a new patch every single week.
We’re not done yet! There are also some birth control methods where many people will experience lighter or no periods:
- Your period will typically become lighter and less frequent on the birth control shot, and may stop altogether. You can’t change the timing of the shot to fully control skipping your period; the shot should be taken every 3 months as instructed.
- Most people using an IUD or implant have much lighter periods, or their periods stop altogether. There’s no guarantee, but people who want to have lighter or absent periods will likely benefit from using an IUD or implant.
If you decide to stop taking birth control at some point, your period will typically return to normal after about a month, but can vary depending on the method.
If you’re…overwhelmed by the daily pill
We know that moms often have busy days, and there are options to take birth control off of your daily to-do list. You can try a once-weekly option like the birth control patch or a once-monthly option like the birth control ring. There’s even a birth control ring you can use all year, called Annovera. Additionally, there’s the birth control shot, which is administered every 3 months.
If you’re…looking for something you can set & then forget
There are lots of great options for long-acting birth control methods that can last from months to years. Consider the birth control shot, which you can inject yourself right at home just once every 3 months. Or, for even longer-term options, consider the IUD, which is inserted by a doctor and can stay in place up to 12 years, depending on which type of IUD you choose. There’s also the implant, called Nexplanon, which is a small rod that’s inserted under the skin of your arm and effectively prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years.
From the daily pill to the IUD, there are so many birth control options to meet your needs no matter what stage of motherhood you’re in. And we’re here to help you along the way.