Of course you’re excited about your newborn bundle of joy, but you don’t necessarily want another one right away. If you even have time to be intimate with your spouse between breastfeeding, swaddling, and playing with baby, you might be wondering about birth control and contraceptives. Some studies show that breastfeeding itself is an effective form of contraceptive, which makes sense. Your body is using its nutrients and resources to nourish you and one baby, so it will hold off on making another until that baby is a bit older and healthy. While statistics show that breastfeeding is as effective as contraceptive pills, you shouldn’t rely on it if you’re seriously trying not to get pregnant. There’s a chance you could, and you won’t know the moment when your body decides to become fertile again.

You might not be able to get back on the same hormonal birth control you were using before you became pregnant, but there are a few options. No matter what type of hormonal contraceptive you decide to use, you should wait at least four weeks after delivery to start taking it if you are breastfeeding. The hormones will put you at higher risk for blood clots as your body is healing, and your baby will have established his natural feeding habits by then in case anything changes with your breast milk.

Most birth control in the United States contains a combination of estrogen and progestin. While breastfeeding, it is essential that you use a contraceptive that only contains progestin for the first six months. Estrogen will cause you to produce less breast milk, so it should be avoided. Progestin on the other hand will have little to no effect. Although it’s less effective than combined hormonal contraceptives, it is 100% effective while breastfeeding because of the natural contraception provided by your milk production. After six months of breastfeeding, you can switch to a combination pill since your baby will have enough nutrients from solid food to stay healthy despite the decreased milk production.

Conceiving a second baby only a few months after your first would be a major financial and emotional strain. Some people choose to do it so that they get the “baby phase” of their children’s lives out of the way simultaneously, but if you’re not prepared, it can be a burden. Talk with your gynecologist about progestin-only contraceptives if you’re breastfeeding.

Source: John T Queenan: Exploring Contraceptive Options for Breastfeeding Mothers. Obstetrics & Gynecology Volume 119 Issue 1 January 2012