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Postpartum contraception

Andrew M Kaunitz, MD
Section Editor
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Contraceptive selection requires consideration of medical problems in conjunction with patient preferences. For postpartum women, additional issues include the timing of contraceptive initiation, resumption of ovulation, and impact on lactation. Prompt initiation of postpartum contraception increases utilization and continuation and thus reduces the risk of unintended pregnancy.

This topic will review contraception issues specific to postpartum women. Discussions on contraceptive counseling and selection and postabortion contraception are presented separately. (See "Contraceptive counseling and selection" and "Postabortion contraception".)


In postpartum women who do not breastfeed, ovulation returns at a mean of 39 days postpartum (earliest ovulation reported 25 days after delivery) [1,2]. As many as 60 percent of these ovulations are potentially fertile [1]. Since the first ovulation often occurs before the first menses, we educate women that return of menses cannot be used as a reliable marker for when to initiate contraception.

Impact of lactation — Women who exclusively breastfeed typically have a delay in resumption of ovulation postpartum due to prolactin-induced inhibition of pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone release from the hypothalamus. The degree to which breastfeeding suppresses ovulation is modulated by the intensity of the breastfeeding, the basal nutritional status of the mother, and the body mass index of the mother. While breastfeeding is associated with subfertility, anovulation is likely only when all of the following specific conditions are met [3]:

Less than six months postpartum


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Sep 16, 2016.
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