With its attendant sleep deprivation and nearly constant physical demands, life with a newborn has likely left you feeling less than amorous, with sex a distant memory. But rest assured that your thoughts will eventually turn to re-establishing physical intimacy with your partner. And when that happens, you’ll need to think about something you haven’t had to in a while: birth control (unless, of course, you want to conceive again immediately). Wives’ tales notwithstanding, ovulation can occur as early as four weeks after delivery. So as soon as you start having sex again—which is not advised until at least six weeks postpartum, or until your doctor gives you the go-ahead—you’ll need to use some form of protection.
Fortunately, there are more reversible methods of birth control available today than ever before. Indeed, the contraception landscape has changed considerably, with several new, convenient methods available, from patches applied weekly, to vaginal rings inserted monthly, to progestin shots given every 12 weeks—and even the return of a safer, improved IUD. Here’s a look at your options.
How it works: Prevents sperm from entering the vagina and uterus and fertilizing the egg. Should be used in conjunction with spermicide for maximum effectiveness.
Effectiveness: 86% to 98%.
Pros: Safe to use while breastfeeding; available over the counter; also prevents transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Cons: Lack of spontaneity; possibility of breakage; can cause reduced sensation.
How it works: Used in conjunction with spermicide and inserted before intercourse, the female condom is a polyurethane sheath with two soft rings at each end. One ring fits over the cervix; the other remains outside the vagina. Prevents sperm from entering the vagina and uterus and fertilizing the egg.
Effectiveness: 79% to 95%.
Pros: Safe to use while breastfeeding; available over the counter; also prevents transmission of STDs.
Cons: Relatively low effectiveness rate; can slip during use; lack of spontaneity; can be difficult to insert; shouldn’t be used by people with allergies to spermicide.