Breastfeeding mothers face the daunting task of continuing on birth control while providing the best possible quantity and quality of breast milk. Certain types of birth control methods utilizing progestin-only provide a higher milk supply for an extended period. Read on to learn more about progestin-only contraception and how it benefits breastfeeding mothers.

Progestin-Only Contraception

Studies have shown that progestin-only contraception is the best option for breastfeeding mothers. This is because estrogen-containing contraception has been found to lead to lower milk supply and lower duration of breast milk production. Progestin-only pills do not change the quality or consistency of breast milk.

Progestin-only options include:

  • Progestin-only birth control pills known as “mini” pills
  • Progesterone releasing IUD’s such as Mirena and Skyla
  • Implants such as Implanon and Nexplanon

Progestin-only pills increase the thickness of the mucus that generally covers the cervix making it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus to allow for fertilization. The pills also increase the time required for fertilized eggs to travel through the fallopian tubes and change the quality of the endometrial lining of the uterus. These actions decrease the ability of the fertilized egg to implant in the uterine wall.

Benefits of Progestin-Only Pills for Breastfeeding Mothers

Progestin-only pills have a lower risk of thrombosis and blood clots than estrogen-containing birth control pills. They do not lead to an increased risk of depression and do not cause decreased libido. Additionally, women can recover their fertility relatively quickly after stopping the pill.

Side Effects of Progestin-Only Pills

Progestin-only pills have a different side effect profile than estrogen-containing combination pills. Some of these common side effects include:

  • Increased menstrual flow during periods
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods
  • Increased breast tenderness
  • Formation of ovarian cysts
  • Acne
  • Increased growth of facial hair

Subdermal Progesterone Implants

Subdermal progesterone implants are another option for birth control available to breastfeeding mothers. These small implants are placed under the skin in the inner, upper arm. They release progestin which blocks ovulation and can be safely implanted 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth. Subdermal progestin implants usually need to be replaced after three years.

Progestin Releasing IUDs

Breastfeeding mothers can also consider choosing to have a Progestin Releasing IUD inserted but must wait at least six weeks to have this procedure completed. Progestin releasing IUDs are small T- shaped coils containing progestin. They are inserted into the uterus and release progestin to prevent the implantation of an embryo into the uterine wall.

IUDs are considered to be 98% to 99% effective in preventing pregnancies and usually last for from 3 to 5 years before they need to be replaced. IUDs have the advantage of beginning to work quickly and also allowing fertility to be restored relatively quickly once they are removed.

Progestin-containing birth control products, including the mini pill,  implants, and IUDs, are some of the best options for breastfeeding mothers. Be sure to consult your doctor, however, before you make a choice.