Breastfeeding and Birth Control: The Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Types, Advantages, and Disadvantages

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Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

What Is An IUD?

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a t-shaped device that is placed into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The IUD is considered a safe, effective, long-term, reversible form of birth control for breastfeeding women.

The Two Types of IUDs:

The Copper IUD: The copper IUD (ParaGard) does not contain any hormones. It's presence in the uterus prevents fertilization and implantation. It can be placed into the uterus within 48 hours of delivery, or it can be inserted after 4 weeks.

The copper IUD is 99% effective and can stay in place for 7 to 10 years.

The Hormonal IUD: The hormonal IUD (Mirena, Skyla, Liletta) contains the hormone progestin. Progestin-only methods of birth control are considered safe to use while you're breastfeeding. The progestin in the IUD prevents pregnancy by causing changes to the cervical mucus and uterine lining. This birth control method is 99% effective and can stay in place in the uterus for up to 5 years. However, unlike the copper IUD, the hormonal IUD should not be inserted right away. It is recommended to wait until approximately 6 weeks postpartum to insert the hormonal IUD to prevent any interference with the establishment of a healthy breast milk supply.

The Advantages Of Using An IUD

  • It does not interfere with breastfeeding.
  • It is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • It can be inserted and removed right in your doctor's office.
  • Once it is inserted, there's nothing more you need to do. Other than checking the strings for proper placement once a month, you do not have to think about birth control for the length of time that the device is effective.
  • It can stay in place for 5 years (hormonal) or longer (copper). But, if you decide you want to have another child, you can have it removed sooner.

    The Disadvantages Of Using An IUD

    • Due to uterine contractions after birth and during breastfeeding, the IUD can be pushed out of your body.
    • It can cause irregular menstrual bleeding and spotting, especially in the first few months after insertion.
    • The side effects of the hormonal IUD may cause headache, weight gain, and depression. The hormonal IUD can also cause a decrease in the supply of breast milk if started too soon after delivery.
    • The copper IUD may cause heavier, more painful periods.
    • An IUD does not provide any protection against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
    • Even though it is cost effective over time, the upfront fees can seem expensive. 
    • An IUD must be inserted and removed by a trained health care provider.
    • Although rare, there is a slight risk of a serious infection or a uterine tear from an IUD.

    Talk to your doctor while you're pregnant to learn more about the IUD and to determine if it's the right method of birth control for you and your partner.   


    Hale, Thomas W., and Rowe, Hilary E. Medications and Mothers' Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology Sixteenth Edition. Hale Publishing. 2014.

    Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

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