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Breast Feeding

Breastfeeding and contraceptives

07/07/2000

Question:

My baby is just one month old,and i breastfeed her.Can i use contraceptive pills?I have heard they are harmful for the baby.

Answer:

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! I hope you and she are enjoying a wonderful breastfeeding relationship.

Medical experts recommend that mothers avoid contraceptive pills containing estrogen for at least the first 2 months postpartum, but it may be best to avoid them until a baby/child is completely weaned. Estrogen-containing contraceptives have been found to reduce the amount of protein in mothers` milk, and they have been associated with sudden, and sometimes severe, decreases in milk production. However, the longer a mother waits to use this type of hormonal contraception, the less effect it seems to have on breastfeeding and lactation.

Progestin-only contraceptives seem to have little effect on breastfeeding and lactation, especially if they are begun after the first 6 to 8 weeks postpartum. Because there have been some reports of decreased milk production with progestin-only contraceptives, a "trial run" with a progestin-only pill may be a good idea before using a longer-acting progestin-only form of contraception, such as a Depo-Provera injection or Norplant. If there is any problem with milk production when taking a pill, it can be easily stopped so there is less chance of a long-term effect on milk supply. (A woman taking progestin-only contraceptive pills should be aware that a missed pill is associated with a greater risk of pregnancy than with a contraceptive pill that also contains estrogen.)

If you are concerned that the estrogen or progestin hormones in any type of hormonal contraceptive may be harmful for your baby, studies have shown that only low amounts of these hormones are in mothers` milk and they appear to have no effect on babies.

Reference:

Hale, TW (1999). Clinical therapy in breastfeeding patients. Amarillo, TX: Pharmasoft Medical Publishing.

For more information:

Go to the Breast Feeding health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC
Adjunct Clinical Instructor
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati