Do I need to use contraception after giving birth?

You can get pregnant again very soon after having a baby, whether or not you're breastfeeding (or chestfeeding).

Even if your periods have not started again, you can still get pregnant, because you can release an egg around 2 weeks before your period.

It’s a good idea to plan ahead and think about what contraception you’ll use after a pregnancy. There are good options that are safe to use straight away, and you can talk to your midwife about these any time – including while you’re still pregnant if you prefer.

What contraception can I use after giving birth?

Condoms – immediately

Male and female condoms can be used at any time.

Learn more about condoms.

Progestogen only methods – immediately

You can start using either the progestogen only pill, the implant, or the injectable contraceptive as soon as you wish after giving birth.

The coil – within 48 hours or from 4 weeks

A coil can be inserted immediately after birth (within 48 hours) or 4 weeks after birth. This includes the hormonal coil and the non-hormonal coil. It can’t be inserted in the period between 48 hours and 4 weeks afterwards, as the womb will then be changing and returning to normal size.

Learn more about the non-hormonal coil.

Combined hormone methods – 3–6 weeks later

Combined hormone methods include the combined pill, the patch and the ring. A clinician will need to check you’re medically safe to use combined contraception before you’re prescribed it.

Combined hormonal methods can be started 6 weeks after birth if breastfeeding. Or from 3 weeks after birth if not breastfeeding. But these methods will not be suitable for you if you have any additional risk factors for thrombosis such as:

  • immobility

  • transfusion at delivery

  • body mass index (BMI) over 35

  • serious high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia)

  • if you smoke

  • serious bleeding after delivery

  • delivery by caesarean section

Learn more about the combined pill.

Diaphragm – around 6 weeks later

You can usually start using a diaphragm or cap around 6 weeks after giving birth.

If you used one before becoming pregnant, speak to your GP or local sexual health clinic to make sure it still fits correctly.

This is because childbirth and other factors, such changes to your weight, can mean you need a different size.

Learn more about the diaphragm.

Sterilisation – months after birth

If you’re interested in female sterilisation (also known as having your tubes tied), it’s usually recommended you delay any decision until some time after delivery. Research shows that people are more likely to regret sterilisation that’s done immediately after a birth.

Learn more about female sterilisation.

Natural family planning – months after birth

Natural methods of family planning will require the return of your normal menstrual cycle before you can use them to prevent pregnancy.

Learn more about natural family planning.

What about emergency contraception?

At the moment, national guidelines set by the FSRH (the faculty of sexual and reproductive healthcare) say that emergency contraception is not needed in the first 21 days of giving birth (post partum).

If you need to take emergency contraception after giving birth it’s important you tell the person prescribing it when you had your baby and whether you’re breastfeeding or not.

If it’s more than 21 days (3 weeks) after giving birth, you can take Levonorgestrel (often known as Levonelle) because it's safe to take when you’re breastfeeding.

The emergency contraception containing ulipristal acetate (often known as EllaOne) is not safe to take while breastfeeding. If you take this type of emergency contraception, you will need to express and discard your milk for 7 days after taking it. If you’re not breastfeeding you can use it any time after birth.

Learn more about emergency contraception.

Last updated at: 14 March 2024
Published on: 07 December 2022