Family planning decisions follow the birth of your baby
Natural Fertility Services
Congratulations on the birth of your new baby.
This is an exciting, busy and tiring time. However, it is important to remember that a family planning decision needs to be made before resuming intercourse.
A major factor to consider when making a decision regarding contraception is whether you are breastfeeding your baby or not. Many other issues may also influence this decision including maternal health, age, finances and ages of other children.
Natural Fertility Clinic staff are happy to discuss this with individual couples if they wish.
If you are breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is nature’s way of allowing you, the mother, to nourish your newborn baby in the best way possible before another pregnancy makes demands on you.
In simple terms, sucking on the breast sends signals to the brain which block the release of hormones which stimulate the ovary and cause ovulation. Research has shown that if you are successfully breastfeeding you are unlikely to fall pregnant if all the following conditions are present:
- you are fully breastfeeding successfully
- your periods have not returned (ignore bleeding in the first eight weeks)
- your baby is less than six months old.
The Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM) is the informed and conscious use of a naturally determined period of infertility. LAM means relying on the effects of full breastfeeding, without contraception, charting or abstinence. This is the method promoted by the clinic as best for both mother and baby in the first six months. For confident and effective use of this method we strongly advise teaching and guidance by a trained Natural Fertility Consultant throughout this time. The clinic provides a free teaching and support service on a regular basis.
If you are not fully breastfeeding, or are formula feeding
It is possible that a pregnancy could occur anytime after you resume intercourse if you:
- are not fully breastfeeding
- need to express milk for many weeks for your premature or sick baby
- have chosen to formula feed your baby from birth
- have decided to wean your baby in the early weeks after birth and are formula feeding.
In the above situations, your periods may return approximately six to eight weeks after your baby was born, although for some women it may be as long as 12 weeks.
Ovulation, the release of the egg from the ovary, may happen as early as four weeks after the birth so a small number of women may become pregnant before their first bleed.
The longer it takes for your period to return, the more likely it is that you will ovulate before it does and so pregnancy could occur before having a period.
If your baby is formula fed, and you wish to avoid a pregnancy then you need to consider your family planing options very soon after birth and use a reliable method from the time you resume intercourse. A properly taught natural method is reliable in this situation and we strongly advise you to contact our Natural Fertility Consultants for guidance and support.
Questions new parents often ask
Could I become pregnant before my first period?
If you are fully breastfeeding—it is much less likely for adequate ovulation to occur before the first bleed in the early months after birth. However the longer that the period is postponed by breastfeeding, the greater the possibility that adequate ovulation, and hence the chance of a pregnancy, will occur prior to the first period (statistically 2% at six months, 8–9% at 12 months).
If you are formula feeding—after resuming intercourse, it is possible to become pregnant before your first period if intercourse occurs without an effective method of family planning.
Will my cycles be regular after the first period?
With breast or formula feeding, the first few cycles may be shorter or longer than usual. Normal cycles have usually returned by the time you have had four to six cycles.
When is it appropriate to resume having intercourse?
This may depend on customs and culture. If you feel comfortable, you may choose to start having gentle intercourse after your heavy bleeding has eased. If you are sore or bruised, it may take some time (about six weeks) for you to feel ready for intercourse. If medical problems are, or have been present, such as haemorrhage or infection, intercourse may need to be delayed. Please discuss any such issues with your doctor or midwife.
- You need to be comfortable and experience no pain or you may be fearful the next time. Use a position which is comfortable for you. A pillow under your hips may be helpful.
- Looking after a new baby can be tiring so enjoying intercourse may be difficult.
- It is common for the natural lubricants produced by the vagina before intercourse to be lacking in the first few months after birth. Use of a water-based lubricant can be helpful.
Australian Council of Natural Family Planning incorporated
Natural Fertility Services
Mater Mothers’ Hospitals
South Brisbane, Queensland, 4101
Phone: 07 3163 8437
Fax: 07 3163 8768
© 2009 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922.
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 20/12/2016.