And why you need to have the conversation while pregnant.
When you’re pregnant, chances are that contraception is the last thing on your mind. But according to a new opinion by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, your doctor should be talking to you about your postpartum contraceptive options before you deliver.
Why? The ACOG says that this sort of dialogue could prevent subsequent unplanned or short-interval pregnancies. Plus, if a woman opts for “long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)” like a contraceptive implant or IUD, she can schedule to have the LARC inserted in the time frame between when she delivers and when she is released from the hospital. So, by the time you go home with your days-old infant, you’ll already be equipped with contraception that will last a while. (Note: LARCs protect against pregnancy, but not against STDs.)
"We encourage maternity providers to begin discussions about postpartum contraception prior to delivery to ensure women have the time and information they need to select the best method for them, which may be immediate postpartum LARC for many women," said Ann Borders, MD, Msc, MPH, who co-authored the ACOG’s opinion on the matter. She continued, "The period following delivery is a busy, exhausting and often stressful time, and immediate postpartum insertion of LARC may eliminate some of the stressors during that time, like scheduling multiple appointments for LARC insertion.”
In their statement, the ACOG went on to explain that many women opt to wait until their first postpartum follow-up visit (usually at 6 weeks) to have their LARCs inserted. But that thinking is problematic, as 40% of women do not actually attend that appointment. (Let's face it, having an infant is a full-time job, so many moms lose track of their calendars during those early weeks.) And since many experts recommend waiting 18 months between pregnancies, the earlier you think about contraception, the better.
Ultimately, your postpartum contraception plan is between you, your partner and your doctor, and knowing your options will allow you to make the best choice possible.