Q: Good evening doctor. Please I want to ask, can a breastfeeding (exclusive) mother take emergency contraceptive ?
A: Well, a breastfeeding mother should definitely not be taking any medication without speaking to her doctor. That’s for sure! 😀 This is because drugs that you take will also end up in breast milk. Most times, the concentration of these drugs in breast milk is so small that it hardly causes any problems in the baby but in some instances, the drug could get very concentrated in breast milk, putting the baby at risk. So, all drug choices, be they contraceptives or otherwise, must pass through your doctor.
A very common question I get asked is if breastfeeding mums can get pregnant. The answer is yes. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, feeding your baby on demand (every 4 hours), you’re within 6 months of your baby’s birth and your menstrual period has not returned after the birth of your baby, you stand a better chance of not getting pregnant during this period. However, this is not a reliable method.
Birth control pills can help prevent pregnancy at this time. Pills that contain estrogen can lead to reduction in breast milk supply (and yes, combination pills contain estrogen). So, it’s a good idea to avoid such pills at this time. Pills that contain only progestin (like the minipill or progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills) are better options, as they do not affect breast milk supply. It’s usually taken at the same time daily. It’s best to start this discussion before you have your baby or immediately after so that your doctor can advise as to when you should start taking the pills, if at all.
Barrier contraceptives like condoms, diaphragms etc can also serve the purpose of preventing pregnancy at this time.
There are, of course, other methods of birth control available eg Intra Uterine Device (IUD), implants, patches etc also exist and you may want to discuss these other options with your doctor as you conclude breastfeeding.
Have a great evening 😀