How to Start Birth Control Pills After Childbirth

After going through childbirth, the last thing on many women's minds is getting pregnant again. These women should begin birth control before resuming sexual activity after childbirth to prevent another pregnancy, according to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Although many new mothers can begin taking birth control pills in the same way as other women, they should always talk to a doctor before doing so.

Two packets of birth control pills. (Image: Goldfinch4ever/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Visit a doctor. A doctor's appointment is necessary to obtain a prescription for birth control pills, but it is also a good time for women to talk to a doctor about the different types of birth control options available and to bring up any concerns about taking the medication after childbirth.

Step 2

Discuss breastfeeding status. Women who are currently breastfeeding and plan to continue breastfeeding while taking birth control pills have different requirements and instructions than those who are not breastfeeding. Many birth control pills interfere with milk supply when started too soon in the nursing process. The World Health Organization notes it is usually best for breastfeeding women to wait until they are more than six weeks postpartum before taking progestogen-only birth control pills and more than six months postpartum before taking combination birth control pills. The organization also notes that women who are not breastfeeding can begin progestogen-only pills immediately but should usually wait until she is at least 21 days postpartum.

Step 3

Rule out pregnancy. Women may be more fertile after childbirth, and many ovulate before getting their first postpartum period. Since many birth control pills can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy, women should make sure they are not pregnant before starting birth control.

Step 4

Prepare a backup method of birth control. Depending on the circumstances, some women may need to use a backup method of birth control for a short period of time when they first begin taking birth control. Even those that do not need to use a backup method initially may find it useful to have a backup method readily available in case they need it.

Step 5

Begin taking the pills when instructed by a doctor. Although some general guidelines exist about when it is appropriate to begin taking birth control pills after childbirth, every woman's situation is different. Only a doctor can give appropriate advice about when beginning the medication is right for you.

Step 6

Take the pills at the same time each day. This is particularly important for women taking progestogen-only pills. Taking a progestogen-only pill even just three hours late can significantly reduce its effectiveness, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Step 7

Note any side effects that occur. Common side effects include nausea, breast tenderness, weight gain, mood changes, headaches and unexpected spotting, according to the American Pregnancy Association. While many women experience these mild side effects during the first few months of taking birth control pills, women should always contact a doctor for any side effects that are particularly persistent or bothersome.

Things You'll Need

  • Prescription for birth control pills

  • Backup method of birth control

Tip

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that taking the pill with a meal or before bed may minimize nausea.

Warning

The American Pregnancy Association warns that women who have a history of heart attacks, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, liver disease and smokers over the age of 35 should not use birth control pills. Women who have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or are at high risk for cardiovascular disease should also consider other birth control options.

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