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Breastfeeding and Birth Control

What About Nonhormonal Birth Control Options?

Many nonhormonal birth control options are available for women who are breastfeeding. Barrier methods are relatively inexpensive options that are safe for use while nursing. These include:
  • Condoms (both male and female) are highly effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly -- about 95 percent effective with perfect use and 85 percent with typical use. They can also reduce the risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some disadvantages to using condoms include a high failure rate, possible breakage, and poor acceptance, among others.
  • Diaphragms are effective choices that present no risk to a breastfed infant. Diaphragms are relatively inexpensive, reusable, dome-shaped rubber caps that can be inserted into the vagina. The diaphragm is a prescription product specially fitted to an individual woman. Some guidelines to keep in mind when using diaphragms include the following:
    • Old diaphragms must be refit to a woman's cervix after childbirth.
    • This method is used in addition to a spermicide containing the active ingredient nonoxynol-9. The spermicide is to be applied every time the diaphragm is used.
    • Women using a diaphragm who have given birth have about a 10 percent higher risk of becoming pregnant, compared to women who have never given birth.
  • Cervical caps are small, soft, deep, round rims that look similar to a thimble. Cervical caps fit over the cervix and work similarly to diaphragms. Some guidelines to keep in mind when using cervical caps include the following:
    • Cervical caps are to be filled with spermicide before use
    • Women using the cervical cap who have given birth have about a 15 percent higher risk of becoming pregnant, compared to women who have never given birth.
  • Copper IUDs are effective but can cause heavy, prolonged vaginal bleeding.
  • A vasectomy or tubal ligation is usually 99 percent effective if performed correctly. A vasectomy is generally a safer and easier procedure than a tubal ligation. These procedures are difficult to reverse and require a serious medical procedure if reversal is desired. Speak with a healthcare provider or counselor about the risks and benefits of these procedures.
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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