After nine months of showing off your growing baby bump, you finally made it to that big ol’ birthday. Yay! Whether you got there by natural birth or C-section, you’re enjoying being a new mama. But as long as you’re not anywhere near ready to start thinking about baby spacing, it’s time to talk BC. Understanding your birth control options is the first step in making sure that your adorable angel won’t think their little sibling’s name is “Oops.”
1. An IUD: An intrauterine device? Hmm, sounds painful. Well, it’s not! An IUD is a tiny T-shaped implant that your physician inserts into your uterus through the opening of your cervix. After that, it works its magic for years — without you feeling or having to do anything. There are currently five FDA-approved brands of IUD in the US. Four of them use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy, while the other uses copper (in other words, it’s completely non-hormonal). Hormonal IUDs work for 3-6 years, depending on the brand, and copper IUDs are effective for up to 12 years. Don’t stress if you might want to get pregnant again sooner than you thought. You can start trying immediately after the doc removes the device. Oh yeah, and an IUD is awesomely effective. With a failure rate between 0.2 and 0.8 percent, it prevents pregnancy about as well as getting your tubes tied.
2. Hormonal BC: The pill, injectables, the patch, and the ring are all hormonal contraceptive options that you can use post-pregnancy. It’s likely that your doc won’t prescribe any of these for at least four weeks postpartum. Estrogen-containing BC may lower your milk supply, making breastfeeding a challenge. When you want to try for baby number two (or higher), the amount of time it takes depends on which option you’ve chosen and your body. After you stop taking a pill or using a ring, you might get pregnant right away. (Well, at least during the next month.) Post-injectable pregnancies take more time. You may not be able to conceive for months after your last one. If you chose the patch, regular ovulation may take up to three months to return.
3. A Diaphragm: So you’re not into having a BC device in you at all times, and hormones aren’t for you. A diaphragm is a removable option that provides a barrier between your cervix and your partner’s little swimmers. If you used this method in your pre-baby days, make sure to talk to your doctor about getting a refit. Your old diaphragm may need an upgrade to fit your new post-pregnancy body. If you’re looking for a fail-safe method, this isn’t it: Diaphragms have a 12 percent failure rate during typical use. But if you’re considering getting preggo again soon, it could be a good choice. All you have to do is stop using your diaphragm once you’re ready to start the baby-making process again.
4. Condoms: You thought your condom days were long gone when you got married, or at least once you got into a committed relationship. Condoms aren’t anywhere near as effective at preventing pregnancies as IUDs or some of the hormonal BC options. They have an 18 percent failure rate, according to the CDC. But they do help prevent STI transmission too, and their effectiveness can be improved to about 98 percent if you use them correctly. And, like with other barrier methods of birth control, once you decide you want to get pregnant again, you can start trying right away.
5. Breastfeeding: The lactational amenorrhea method, AKA stopping your period by breastfeeding, is a natural way to prevent pregnancy. Kind of. It is totally natural. Nursing nourishes your baby, helps you bond with them, and, bonus, may stop you from getting pregnant again right away. But — and this is a big but — you need to meet every effectiveness criterion for this method to work. That means you need to exclusively breastfeed (absolutely no formula), feed your baby every four hours (including at night), and not have had a post-delivery period yet. Along with meeting these criteria, you can only use this method during the first six months after childbirth. Especially once you start brushing up against that deadline, you’ll probably want to combine breastfeeding with another form of birth control.