If you are practicing Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) then you can usually use breastfeeding as birth control until about 6 months postpartum. LAM is actually 98-99.5% effective so long as you follow all of the rules. Check out my post on breastfeeding as effective birth control, if you are interested to know more about the details of LAM.If you do not want to rely on breastfeeding as birth control, are past that 6 month LAM point, or you just want to be extra cautious here is what you need to know about NFP during postpartum.
Natural Family Planning During the Postpartum Stage
Use symptom-based methods of Natural Family Planning
Calendars and rhythms do not work here. You need to read your body’s symptoms to figure out when you are fertile. That means checking cervical mucus. Basal Body Temperature is a nice secondary but its flaw is that you need at least 3-4 hours of straight sleep for accurate testing and most breastfeeding moms do not get that. Cervical position is also a symptom method but is usually hard to figure out. My recommendation is always cervical mucus.
Even if your cycle has not returned you should be charting. At the very least, you should keep a mental note if you have a “fertile” day.
If it looks fertile….
Breastfeeding and being postpartum can make things a little weird. You may have fertile looking cervical mucus multiple times a month (as oppose to the usual one time). This is because your body is preparing for things to return to normal but it’s just not there yet. Unfortunately, you have no real way of knowing if that fertile cervical mucus does mean you are fertile or not so…. you have to act like it is. This means you could have multiple “fertile” days a month. Remember it’s best to abstain on a fertile day plus an additional three days after.
Yes, Natural Family Planning during breastfeeding does have the possibility of giving you a lot of false fertility days but remember, it will only last for a while. The average breastfeeding mom gets her cycle back at 14.5 months postpartum.
Once your cycle returns then things usually start to mellow back into a typical cycle. Although keep in mind that the first few postpartum cycles can be a little longer, spottier, etc. Make sure to chart and continue counting anything that looks fertile as fertile!
Natural Family Planning is one of the best natural birth control methods to use but it does take effort. If you are nursing or have not gotten your postpartum cycle back then you will need to make an extra effort – but I consider it worthwhile.
For what it is worth, when I am breastfeeding I do not get my cycle back until at least 15 month postpartum and I do not get any “wet” days until my cycle starts. So while breastfeeding can often make using NFP more challenging, it doesn’t always. Honestly, NFP is the easiest for me while nursing!