Birth control after baby ― Which suits you best?

Wondering what form of protection to use after baby arrives? Here’s your complete guide to contraceptives.

Conceiving-birth control-main
Sex may be the last thing on your mind after you’ve just popped out a human being, but don’t be surprised if some of your post-partum friends resume sexual activity at six weeks after getting the all clear by their gynae.

Your ability to conceive can return as early as a few weeks after birth, but most doctors recommend waiting at least a year after you have a baby before trying for the next one. This means there should be at least an 18-month age gap between the siblings. Having this break gives your body, uterus and cervix enough time to heal. Plus, it also helps you dodge an increased risk of pregnancy complications, infections, miscarriages and pre-term birth.

The key to good family planning is using reliable birth control, but make sure it gels with your lifestyle (so that you have one less thing to worry about) and doesn’t pose any side effects that might threaten your health. The good news is women today have a plethora of options, you just have to figure out which one works best for you.

Chronic smokers are also discouraged from going on the pill as the medication can have lethal effects when combined with nicotine.

Hormonal Methods

1) THE PILL 
Effectiveness 95 to 99 per cent.
How it works There are two types, points out SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, a consultant obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital. The traditional ones ― which contain oestrogen and progesterone ― need to be taken for 21 consecutive days, then you stop for a week and wait for your period. The other is the progesterone only mini-pill you take continuously, so you don’t get your period. “The last four pills have no medication in them,” Dr Chong notes. The hormones in the pill prevent ovulation from taking place and also thicken the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from joining with an egg.
It’s good because… It has a proven low failure rate ― less than 1 per cent of women will get pregnant if they take the pill as instructed. Plus, it helps women lose weight and improve their complexion, while reducing pre-menstrual symptoms, such as cramps, and also  lightens a heavy flow. “If you take it for more than a year, it will also reduce risk of womb and ovarian cancer by 50 per cent,” Dr Chong adds.  Because of the low dose, it doesn’t affect fertility and you can try for a baby soon after stopping. However, you might experience mild side effects such as nausea, breast tenderness, mood swings and sometimes chloasma (dark patches on your face).
It’s not for you if… You have a history of deep vein thrombosis, as it could exacerbate the condition, or if you’re forgetful ― miss a few pills and it’s no long as effective. You might also want to give it a miss if you have liver disease, a thyroid problem and on epilepsy medication that could affect how the pill metabolises in the liver, which means the normal dosage may not be sufficient to achieve the usual protection success rates.

Chronic smokers are also discouraged from going on the pill as the medication may have lethal effects when combined with nicotine. The oestrogen in the pill stresses the blood vessels, while nicotine increases your blood pressure and accelerates the heart rate. This increases your risk of having a heart attack, blood clots or a stroke.

Plus, a new study also links the pill to depression, although Dr Chong reckons insufficient studies have been done to confirm this theory. “It’s still generally safe and has low side effects. The studies may not be statistically significant as most textbooks do not indicate this.”

2) THE PATCH
Effectiveness 95 to 99 per cent.
How it works It’s a thin, beige, plastic patch that you stick on your skin for three weeks in a row, then remove it on the fourth week so that your menses willcome. It’s small enough to be used inconspicuously, usually in your bum or upper thigh area. Just like the pill, it releases oestrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation while thickening cervical mucus.
It’s good because… It has proven low failure rates and is convenient ― you slap it on and don’t have to do anything for three weeks. Similar to the pill, the dosage will also not affect fertility later on.
It’s not for you if… You have sensitive skin as it could react to it. If you tend to perspire a lot or easily, you might have to give this a pass, says Dr Chong, as the patch could keep sliding off.

Do you know what the most effective birth control is? Read on to find out!