Breastfeeding as Birth Control
British Columbia Specific Information
Birth control can help prevent pregnancy. There are many types of birth control available. Speak with your health care provider to help decide which type is right for you and your partner.
Hormone-based birth control contains hormones such as estrogen and progestin. Certain medications may make your hormone-based birth control not work properly or not at all. For more information, see HealthLinkBC File #91a Using Hormone-based Birth Control with Other Medications.
Emergency contraception helps to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, or failed birth control. For more information about emergency contraception, see HealthLinkBC File #91b Emergency Contraception (EC).
Birth control cannot prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but using a condom will reduce your risk. For more information about birth control and sexual health, visit Options for Sexual Health and Smart Sex Resource. To learn more about STIs, see our HealthLinkBC Files - Sexually Transmitted Infections Series.
You may also call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse or pharmacist. Our nurses are available anytime of the day, every day of the year. Our pharmacists are available every night from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Breastfeeding can be used as a method of birth control, called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). But three conditions must be met to ensure its effectiveness:
- Your baby must be 6 months of age or younger. After your baby is 6 months old, you are much more likely to become pregnant and need to use another method of birth control to prevent pregnancy.
- You must fully breastfeed your infant, meaning that the baby receives only breast milk. Also, breastfeeding must be maintained with both day and night feeding, and no long intervals can occur between feedings. It's best if you don't go longer than 4 hours between feedings during the day and no more than 6 hours between feedings at night.
- You must not have a period (amenorrhea). When your periods start, use an additional birth control method.
When these conditions are met, LAM has been shown to be about 98% effective.footnote 1 But many doctors recommend that you also use another method of birth control.
After 6 months, even if you are breastfeeding exclusively and your period has not returned, you must use an additional form of birth control if you do not want to get pregnant. You can get pregnant before your first period. This is because you ovulate, then have your period.
At any point during breastfeeding, use a reliable method of birth control if you do not want to get pregnant. Many methods are safe to use while you are breastfeeding, although some are more reliable than others. Options include:
- Progestin-only birth control pills. The estrogen-progestin methods of birth control are not recommended in early breastfeeding because they may reduce the milk supply.
- The shot, such as Depo-Provera, which does not affect milk production.
- Barrier methods, such as condoms or diaphragms. To increase their reliability, use them with spermicide or foam. Diaphragms are not widely available in Canada. Buying the necessary spermicidal jelly to use with the diaphragm is difficult.
- An intrauterine device (IUD), which is placed inside your uterus by a health professional.
Fertility awareness is not recommended for birth control during breastfeeding. This method is less reliable and harder to manage than other forms of birth control, especially with the sporadic ovulation that may occur while you are breastfeeding.
For more information, see the topic Birth Control.
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofMay 22, 2015
Current as of: May 22, 2015
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