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The Best Birth Control After the Baby

Barrier Methods

Condoms

Pluses: Condoms don't have to be fitted and they don't contain hormones that can interfere with nursing, so they're ideal for new parents (even before the first postpartum checkup).

Effectiveness: 86%*

What You Should Know: If you breastfeed, your body's balance of estrogen and progesterone will be thrown off for a few months following childbirth. If you don't nurse your baby, it can be off for a few weeks. During this time, you may experience vaginal dryness. You can ease some of the discomfort with a lubricated condom and by using an additional lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly.

Diaphragm, Cervical Cap

Pluses: They contain no hormones, so they won't interfere with nursing.

Effectiveness: Diaphragm, 80%; cervical cap, 60% (for women who've had a child).

What You Should Know: You need to be refitted -- or fitted for the first time -- at your first postpartum checkup whether you used a diaphragm or cervical cap before pregnancy or have never used either. By the time of the checkup, the vagina, cervix, and uterus will have recovered and reached the size and shape at which they will remain (usually a bit larger than they were before pregnancy).

You should be refitted even if you delivered by cesarean section. "An exception would be a woman who had a cesarean section but didn't labor long, have much cervical dilation, or have the baby's head come into the pelvis," says Gary Stewart, M.D., a family-planning consultant based in Boston. Ask your doctor if you fit into such a category.

One drawback with the cervical cap is its higher failure rate -- even when it's refitted -- when used after giving birth. Doctors aren't exactly clear on why the caps don't work as well after childbirth, but think it may be related to the changed shape of the cervix after delivery. Talk to your ob-gyn about whether you should switch to another birth-control method.

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