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Demulen and Breastfeeding

Rather than taking a combined oral contraceptive like Demulen, breastfeeding women are typically advised to take a progestin-only birth control pill. The hormones in combined oral contraceptives (including Demulen) pass through breast milk and may cause problems, such as jaundice, in a nursing infant. Also, Demulen and other combined oral contraceptives can decrease the production and quality of breast milk.

Can Breastfeeding Women Take Demulen?

Demulen® (ethynodiol diacetate/ethinyl estradiol) is a prescription birth control pill. Although a few birth control pills are safe to take while nursing, most types are not recommended. In particular, "combined" oral contraceptives (including Demulen) should usually be avoided when breastfeeding. Combined oral contraceptives contain two different kinds of hormones: a progestin and an estrogen.
(Brand-name Demulen is no longer available in the United States, as it was discontinued by its manufacturer. However, generic versions, sold under the names Zovia® and Kelnor™, are still available. If your healthcare provider writes you a prescription for Demulen, your pharmacist will automatically substitute one of the generic versions.)

Breastfeeding and "The Pill"

Although combined oral contraceptives such as Demulen are quite effective at preventing pregnancy, they are not usually recommended for use if you are breastfeeding. Combined contraceptives may decrease both the quantity and the quality of breast milk. For this reason, healthcare providers almost always recommend progestin-only oral contraceptives (also known as "mini-pills") instead for women who are breastfeeding.
However, progestin-only contraceptive pills are usually less effective than combined oral contraceptives. Of course, other forms of contraception aside from birth control pills can also be used while you are breastfeeding.
Research has shown that the hormones in birth control pills do pass through breast milk, usually in very small amounts. These amounts are probably too low to cause long-lasting or significant problems in nursing infants, although more research is necessary to confirm this. There have been cases of problems, such as jaundice and breast enlargement, in babies whose mothers took certain types of combined oral contraceptives while breastfeeding.

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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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