The first thing that has to be said about post-baby birth control methods is this: do not rely on nursing. Unless, of course, you want to get pregnant again, in which case, go right ahead. But if you ask me, I got pregnant with number three while still nursing number two 24/7 (and how exactly we managed that is something of a blur). So: not nursing.
Which means you’re going to need something in the way of protection (even if you’re previously experienced infertility, you might talk to your doctor about whether birth control should be on your list—I have multiple friends who’ve followed up IVF kids with unexpected pregnancies). For many women who went off the pill to get pregnant, going back on seems like an obvious choice. But the obvious choice (especially if it’s also the most heavily advertised choice) might not be the best one. Birth control pills are also big business, and with the anticipated launch of Natazia, Bayer’s new pill method, NPR is reporting on the lawsuits surrounding Yaz, the most recent innovation in birth control pills, which some women claim caused them serious harm.
Natazia, like Yaz (which it replaces), offers birth control from in a new chemical form, in this case a form of estrogen that’s never been used as an oral contraceptive. (Neither is recommended for nursing mothers.) Natazia’s been approved for use as birth control by the FDA, but still, there remains some debate about the testing that was done before Natazia came to market. Bayer claims that Natazia is every bit as effective at preventing pregnancy as other birth control pills out there, but effectiveness isn’t all you should consider. Natazia is clearly “safe” by FDA standards, but research done by scientists in Denmark suggests that, in particular with respect to the risk of blood clots, other formulations might be safer. It’s not definitive; NPR says that the FDA found flaws in the research. But if another pill that’s been around longer works for you, you might want to reconsider jumping on a new pill bandwagon. The women who were among the first users of Yaz now number among them many plaintiffs to a variety of lawsuits. Unless there’s a good reason to be among a drug’s first users, many researchers suggest you might want to avoid being part of a de facto large-group trial run. (As my dad always said, never buy a car during its first model year. Give them some time to work the bugs out.)
Me, I prefer the options that go beyond the pill. I forgot to take my pill often enough before I had kids; now it’s all I can do to make sure I’m not wearing my slippers when I leave the house in the morning. The Pill is popular—it seems cheap, its flexible and often, although not always, at least partly covered by insurance. But as the New York Times reported, insurance is increasingly covering the cost of other birth control methods like IUDs, hormonal implants or shots, the “patch” and a vaginal ring. IUDs (intrauterine devices) with or without hormones, are a good long-term option for many women; some can remain effective for over ten years. The patch and the ring might be better if more kids are in your relatively near future. The TImes pointed me to a great interactive tool on the Planned Parenting website to help sort through birth control options.
As you flip, consider and discuss, it’s always worth keeping in mind that somebody makes money off of every form of birth control (and that somebody may include your doctor). Caveat emptor might not be exactly the motto you planned to take to the pharmacy, but it still applies.
Image: flickr / nateOne