Healthy spacing between pregnancies is important; here’s all you need to know about postpartum contraception

A woman’s body undergoes several changes — especially, before, during, and after pregnancy, something which also affects their sex life. As such, to give their bodies enough time to heal after delivery, many women fear an unplanned pregnancy during the postpartum period. In such cases, postpartum contraception — methods that help prevent closely-spaced pregnancies in the first year after giving birth — plays a huge role.

If you are keen to know more about it, we’ve got you covered. But before understanding postpartum contraception, let’s first learn how ovulation works after delivery, and what experts suggest to be the ideal period between two pregnancies.

Quoting research, Dr Shalini Vijay, Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Lullanagar suggested delaying trying for another pregnancy “for 18 to 24 months, but no longer than five years, after giving birth to a live baby to lower the risk of complications during pregnancy and other health issues.” She added that women over 35 may think about delaying getting pregnant again for “12 months while balancing infertility worries.”

Some research also suggests that closely-spaced pregnancies might not give a mother enough time to recover from pregnancy before moving on to the next. For instance, pregnancy and breastfeeding can reduce the store of nutrients, especially folate, in a woman’s body. Also, inflammation of the genital tract, which develops during pregnancy and does not heal before the next one, can also affect the health of the baby.

Adding to this, Dr Vijay said, “Couples who have experienced a miscarriage are exempt from the dangers and suggestions. It’s not necessary to delay getting pregnant after a miscarriage if you’re in good health and feel ready.”

When does ovulation occur after delivery?

The formation of the eggs starts as early as 45 days after delivery, but can also get postponed up to 12 months, depending on how much the new mother is breastfeeding. If the child is totally dependent on the mother’s lactating supply, then ovulation can get delayed by nine to 12 months. Research finds that only 2 per cent of women have unwanted pregnancies during the postpartum period.

According to the gynaecologist, “In the first year following childbirth, postpartum contraception (PPC) is used to avoid unintended and closely spaced pregnancies. Post-partum contraception use has a notable impact on reducing unintended births and enhancing maternal health.”

Different methods of postpartum contraception include:

*Traditional birth control pills contain a mixture of the hormones oestrogen and progestin, which may lead to reduced milk supply in some women. Mostly, oestrogen is the root cause of this. Thus, an oral contraceptive — known as the mini pill which contains only progestin — is considered safer for breastfeeding mothers. You can start taking it between six to eight weeks after delivery.

*Intrauterine devices (IUD) are more than 99 per cent effective than most birth control options. Most doctors wait until six weeks after delivery, otherwise the IUD may get dislodges and increase risk of infection.

*The DMPA contraceptive injection, also known as the “shot,” is offered to women postpartum. The shot works by releasing the hormone DMPA, a progestin, which suppresses ovulation and thickens the cervical mucous that keeps the sperm from fertilising an egg. It needs to be administered once every 12 weeks to be effective. However, the side-effects may include some amount of weight gain, headaches, acne, lack of sexual interest and mood changes.

Concluding, Dr Vijay said, “Each method of reproductive control has benefits and drawbacks. Sexually active individuals who want to prevent pregnancy should be informed of their birth control options. To help prevent pregnancy, a variety of contraceptive methods are offered,” stressing that refraining from intercourse is the only surefire way to prevent getting pregnant.