Some women dream of having big families. Indeed, traditional values idealize women who give birth to, and lovingly raise plenty of kids. In the past, this meant having children practically every year, sometimes even having as many as twelve.
It’s important to remember, however, that back in the times when that was the norm, child mortality rates were through the roof. As such, many families chose to have many kids in order to still have progeny even if a couple of them died. In addition, having many kids meant that there were many hands to help out in the family farm.
Regardless, this wasn’t very good for the mothers. After giving birth, it’s generally a bad idea to get pregnant again too soon, especially for successive pregnancies. For one thing, mom’s body needs to recover from the blood loss and the damage that inevitably comes during childbirth. In fact, most experts recommend waiting at least two years, all the better if more, before having another child. This allows mom’s body to get back into tip-top shape for another pregnancy, as well as gives her time to devote most of her attention to her brand new baby.
Some moms bank upon the myth that women do not get pregnant right after childbirth. While there is a sliver of truth to this, which we’ll discuss in a bit, it does not apply to all women. Here are fifteen reasons why all moms should consider getting back on birth control even right after she’s given birth.
15 Too Many Kids
Practically speaking, children do take up resources. They, of course, need to be fed, clothed and educated at the very least. Babies, in particular, require plenty of attention. As such, having too many at one time can definitely put a strain on family resources. And if that isn’t enough, imagine having to put all those kids through college!
We are fortunate in modern times to be able to afford to have fewer children than our grandparents did. Children don’t die as easily anymore, with the advent of vaccines and treatment for conditions that, in the past, would have been death sentences. As such, it’s actually more efficient to invest in quality food, materials and education into one or two children, rather than spreading it thinly over a dozen children in the hopes that at least one will survive to adulthood. So if there are too many kids to look after, it’s probably best for mom to get birth control. Just in case.
14 Not Enough Time
Nowadays, there are all too many things that can take up the average mother’s time. Between a career and housework, going out with friends and dedicating time to hobbies, mom may find that her attention becomes way too divided at any given moment. Oh, and there’s the baby, barely a year old, too. Waking up in the middle of the night to feed a hungry baby can’t be very comfortable when mom has got a long checklist of things to do in the morning.
Add in another baby to the equation and mom might find that she’s spreading herself way too thinly over all the things that she needs to do in a day. She’ll end up exhausted, fail to attend to her own needs, and perhaps even grow resentful. So if mom feels she can’t dedicate so much time to another baby, perhaps it’s best to hold off.
13 Getting Back To Work
In most countries, maternity leave will still be granted to a woman even if she’s pregnant for several consecutive years. But that doesn’t mean that the average working woman is often pleased at the prospect of taking time off work, especially when it involves weeks of being exhausted after pushing a baby out of her down there. After all, depending on her work arrangements, it could mean lost income. In addition, it’s not exactly a great feeling to leave work hanging, especially if it’s in the middle of a project.
In addition, some women just like to work. It gives them a sense of purpose and fulfillment, alongside with what motherhood also provides. And while some women do have to choose between family and career, most women decide to – sometimes are even compelled to – settle for a balance of both. As such, the adamant career woman must decide to pace her pregnancies at a rate that has as little as possible effect on her career.
12 Difficult To Get Help
Some women are able to manage several babies at a time because they have strong, nearby support systems to help her out. If mom is living near the baby’s grandparents, for instance, she can probably count on them to look after one child while she’s busy with the ups and downs of pregnancy and childbirth of the second one. Or if dad has plenty of free time to help her out with parenting, it may also be easier.
But many women do not have this privilege. Sometimes her closest family members might life several towns – perhaps even an ocean – apart. Maybe her friends nearby are also equally busy with careers and families of their own. Even if they’ll certainly try to help her, it can be difficult to gauge whether or not they’ll be available when they’re needed. The mom for whom getting help can be difficult, therefore, might want to think twice before she has sex without protection soon after childbirth.
11 Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is tough - it can flood the new mom with feelings of failure, loneliness and helplessness. It’s already tough enough to deal with, considering that she concurrently has responsibility over one newborn. Why make it harder by adding another baby into the mix? In this period, mom has to come to terms with her relationship with her new baby, and slowly learn the ropes of raising the little one. Another pregnancy isn’t likely to help fix that.
One more reason why the period of postpartum depression isn’t a great time to get pregnant is because it’s, at least partially, caused by the fluctuating hormones of pregnancy and childbirth. If mom gets pregnant again, she’s prone to going through this roller coaster of emotions all over again, before she gets the chance to recover from the first. As such, it’s probably best to seek professional help for her condition before getting pregnant again.
10 Peace Of Mind
For the mom who doesn’t intend to have any more kids at the moment, using birth control can give her the peace of mind she needs that she’s not going to get pregnant any time soon. After all, the chances are that following childbirth, her menstrual cycle may still be a bit unpredictable as it adjusts to the post-pregnancy hormone shifts. It may be difficult for her to determine her new fertile period.
Remember, using the calendar method, basal body temperature and other methods of natural birth control require a baseline of at least six months before it can be effective. Mom can’t just start all over again with her previous fertility data, considering she hasn’t had a period in the past nine months. Having sex during the six-month period after childbirth can be a bit of a toss-up if mom doesn’t want to be pregnant just yet.
9 Pregnancy Complications
If mom has had pregnancy complications during the previous pregnancy, it's all the more important to avoid getting pregnant again. After all, things like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and gestational hyperthyroidism are all caused by the fluctuation of pregnancy hormones. These conditions typically resolve right after childbirth as hormones begin to normalize to pre-pregnancy levels. As one might imagine, getting pregnant again might trigger all these conditions anew. And while mom may have survived a first bout of pregnancy complications, her body may not be able to handle another one again. Getting pregnant, therefore, is to risk being incredibly sick all over again.
Even experiencing childbirth complications such as postpartum hemorrhage, hip or tailbone fractures, or perineal tears all require mom to have a longer refractory period for mom’s body to fully recover. So, when mom is well enough to have sex after childbirth, it’s best to opt for a reliable method of birth control.
8 Not Breastfeeding
One great method of birth control for new moms is the Lactation Amenorrhea Method or LAM. Basically, women who breastfeed continue to produce hormones that hold off ovulation, similar to how women do not ovulate during pregnancy. This is because the body recognizes that it must devote all its resources to raising and feeding a baby, and so may not be able to have enough to maintain another pregnancy.
There are certain conditions that must be met for this to work, however, and we’ll talk about these shortly. But because of this, women who choose not to breastfeed after childbirth may not benefit from the same sort of protection from pregnancy. In fact, if breastfeeding is not initiated, mom can become pregnant again in as little as a couple of weeks after childbirth. Moms who do not plan on breastfeeding or are unable to breastfeed, must seek other methods of birth control as soon as she can have sex again.
7 Chance Of Failure
Despite the fact that LAM is a pretty good birth control method, it still does have a chance of failure, so moms might want to use other birth control methods concurrently with it. About two in every hundred women who meet all the conditions for LAM will still get pregnant within a six-month period. Granted, this chance is pretty small, if you think about it. For reference, condom use is less effective, with twelve in a hundred women getting pregnant within a year of use, although this is mostly because some do not fit it on properly or the condom tears during sex.
With oral contraceptives, the odds are about 5 in every hundred, although this is mostly in women who forget to take them or don’t take them at the same time each day. Injections, implants and IUDs have the lowest failure rates among temporary birth control methods, at 1 in every hundred women. Natural birth control methods have the highest failure rates, at 25 in every hundred. Permanent sterilization methods have close to zero failure rate.
6 Period Has Started
One of the primary criteria for the lactation amenorrhea method is that the period hasn’t started yet. In fact “amenorrhea” means just that: the lack of a menstrual period. Once a woman has her period after childbirth, it means that her body has kickstarted her menstrual cycle all over again and she has already begun ovulating. As such, she is no longer qualified to continue with LAM and reliably expect not to get pregnant.
It can be frustrating for the mom who intended on banking on LAM for birth control shortly after pregnancy to have her period all too soon. However, this is a sure sign that other birth control methods must definitely be used as soon as possible. In fact, it’s best for all women close to the end of their pregnancy to plan on the type of birth control they wish to take after childbirth, just in case LAM doesn’t work out for them.
5 Irregular Breastfeeding
LAM is most effective if mom is breastfeeding her newborn regularly, about every four to six hours, without fail. This is because the hormones that suppress ovulation are produced reliably with each feeding. If the new mom fails to stick to this, a dip in her hormones could trigger the maturation of another egg cell in her ovaries and, thus, another ovulation.
Of course, even moms who are working or cannot be with their baby all the time can still get around this. By pumping milk and emptying the breasts at around roughly the time that the little one needs a feeding can still help keep her from ovulating. The added advantage of this is that the baby’s caregiver can use the pumped milk to feed the baby when mom is not around, giving the little one all the advantages of breastmilk even when mom is away. This is provided, of course, that the milk is refrigerated or frozen immediately after pumping.
4 It’s Been Six Months
Despite all its benefits, there is only a short period of time in which LAM is effective. For most women, the minimum is six months. Some women may continue not to ovulate even after this period, but each woman reacts differently to breastfeeding. But as a general rule, LAM can no longer be considered reliable in preventing pregnancy after the baby is six months old. For the mom who absolutely does not to get pregnant just yet, the risk of getting pregnant is too great to completely dismiss birth control.
So moms using LAM must plan on a reliable birth control method to use for when LAM ceases to be effective. Most breastfeeding moms opt for the mini-pill, as this does not affect their milk production as much. And as with post-pregnancy, natural birth control methods may not work since mom will not have data on her menstrual cycle for the months she has been using LAM.
3 STI Protection
Another con of LAM is that it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. Conditions such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV can be contracted with even a single sexual encounter, but in some cases require long months and even a lifetime of treatment. This is of particular concern for single moms or those in non-monogamous relationships, or generally when there is a risk of having a sexual partner with an STI. This is especially the case after childbirth, mom may still have some small injuries down south that, while they may not cause pain during sex, can still make her prone to the introduction of an infectious agent in the bloodstream.
Because of this, moms who are vulnerable to STIs must therefore continue to use birth control on top of the method that protects against them: condoms. Condoms give mom extra protection against pregnancy and also lowers her risk of contracting STIs at the same time. Talk about efficient.
2 Different Options
One great reason to opt for birth control options is simply that there are so many of them now that it’s easy to choose something that fits each mom’s individual needs. For moms who feel like they already have enough kids, she and her partner can opt for permanent birth control methods such as a vasectomy or bilateral tubal ligation. For moms who prefer a method they can incorporate in their daily routine, pills are a great choice. Those who want to have a medium to long-term birth control method that they can simply forget about, patches, injections and IUDs are the perfect choice. Finally, those who just want a birth control method as needed can opt for male or female condoms.
It’s important for each woman to assess what she wants from a birth control method, as well as gauging how well she can stick to them. With a newborn baby in her hands, choosing something she can work with is now all too important.
One of the reasons why moms of the past would not take birth control in the months after childbirth is because many methods can decrease her milk supply. These methods of birth control involve giving mom a steady dose of hormones that fool her body into thinking she’s already pregnant. And while the hormones of pregnancy help prepare mom’s body for lactation, they do suppress the production of milk since it is not “yet” needed. As such, these methods like taking the pill, or getting a patch can cause mom’s milk supply to dry up, causing her to wean the little one earlier than she might have wanted.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of birth control methods that allow mom to go on breastfeeding her baby. Permanent birth control methods, for instance, do not affect lactation. Condoms are also a great choice for breastfeeding moms. In the recent years, the mini-pill has also become available. This pill contains only the hormone progesterone, and not estrogen, and so can suppress ovulation without affecting milk supply.