Breastfeeding: Can you use the Pill while breastfeeding?

My son just turned one and nurses a few times a day. I would like to continue to nurse, but have considered weaning because I was told not to use the pill, my preferred method of birth control, while nursing, because it contains estrogen. I have menstruated twice and I am concerned about becoming pregnant. Are the side effects of the pill still too risky though we nurse so infrequently? Do I need to wean at this time?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Since you are nursing your little guy only a few times each day, there is more likelihood that without using any method of birth control you could become pregnant.

Though hormonal methods of birth control are not typically the first choice for breastfeeding moms, many mothers do use the birth control pill once lactation has been well established. Progestin-only methods, such as the mini-pill, Depo-Provera, and Norplant are preferred over contraceptives containing estrogen for use in nursing mothers. Studies have shown that they are less likely to negatively impact a mother's milk supply (McCann, 1994; WHO, 1994; Emery 1993). Small amounts of hormones do pass into your breastmilk when using hormonal contraceptives. It is not necessary to wean your baby from the breast when using a hormonal contraceptive.

Since you would like to continue nursing, but want to avoid pregnancy at this time, I would recommend talking with your Health Care Provider about the contraceptive options available to you. If you choose not to use a hormonal method at this time, barrier methods such as condom, diaphragm, contraceptive sponge, or cervical cap are relatively inexpensive and have no effect on breastfeeding. Natural family planning when used correctly is also quite effective -- 91 to 99 percent according to the Institute for Reproductive Health, 1994. Best wishes in choosing a method of family planning that works well for you!

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