The Impact of Birth Control Pills on Breastfeeding Mothers

Birth control pills are used for inhibiting female fertility, and are commonly used to control the ovulation and the menstrual cycle. In addition, birth control pills are effective in preventing ovarian cancer, particularly in older women. These pills can be very important for you in terms of practical and health benefits. They contain hormones that regulate the level of hormones in the human body, and can be harmful to you if you are breastfeeding when used in large amounts. Here are the effects of birth control pills on breastfeeding mothers.

Types of Pills

There are two main types of pills, the Combined Contraceptive and the Progesterone- (or progestin) Only pill. Combined Contraceptives contain both estrogen and progesterone, important hormones in regulating menstruation, pregnancy and puberty in girls and women. Estrogen is essential in regulating the menstrual cycle, and is responsible for the thickening and the shedding of the uterine wall that causes the bleeding in menstruation. Estrogen levels are highest during ovulation, when the walls of the uterus are thickest and ready to receive the ovum. Progesterone, on the other hand, is known as the hormone of pregnancy that is necessary in the development of the fetus after conception. High estrogen and progesterone levels prevent ovulation and prevent the sperm from properly entering the uterus, preventing conception.

Combination Contraceptives

Combination Contraceptives are so called for the combination of both types of hormones. These birth control pills are associated with very low milk production, since a low level of estrogen is needed in order for lactation to take place. Estrogen remains low following pregnancy in order for you to produce breast milk. However, taking Combination Contraceptives raise the estrogen levels in the bloodstream significantly, resulting in an approximately 50% reduction in the breast milk produced. It is not recommended that breastfeeding mothers take Combination Contraceptives for six months to a year after the baby is born, since the production of milk reduces significantly.

Progesterone-Only Contraceptives

The other hormone that is associated with birth control pills is Progesterone-Only contraceptives, or “minipills.” Minipills are widely available and common amongst breastfeeding mothers, since they do not affect the production of milk as much as pills that contain estrogen. Like estrogen, progesterone is required in low amounts in order for you to lactate, and taking progesterone will cause the production of breast milk to decrease. However, the levels of production reduce only by about 20%, as opposed to 50% for combination pills. There are two main things to note in taking Progesterone-Only contraceptives. Firstly, studies have shown that taking Progesterone-Only pills in higher than normal doses causes a spike in nitrogen levels in breast milk that can be potentially harmful to the child. Secondly, it is recommended that these pills are taken only six to eight weeks after birth. These measures ensure that the child will get the most nutritious and steady supply of breast milk.


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