IUD’s and Breast Milk Supply
About 6 weeks postpartum, your health care provider is likely to bring up the subject of birth control. It’s theoretically possible to get pregnant after 6 weeks, even if you are breastfeeding. Your doctor has your mental and physical health in mind when he talks to you about a birth control method. It can be devastating to get pregnant again before you are ready.
There are many birth control methods that are compatible with breastfeeding and have absolutely zero risk of harming milk production. But these methods are considered “risky” to many doctors because they rely on 100% patient compliance, and errors can occur. More and more doctors, therefore, are encouraging new mothers to use an IUD for birth control.
A conventional IUD should not interfere with breastfeeding. There is a relatively new IUD on the market, however, that definitely can and does create problems for breastfeeding mothers. It’s called Mirena. The Mirena IUD releases small amounts of progesterone over time. Progesterone is the hormone that keeps you from making milk when you are pregnant. It follows that progesterone, even a small amount, could cause a reduction in milk supply for a breastfeeding mother.
There is no research that I know of to back up this claim. I only have the experiences of many clients who have had devastating results with the Mirena. I imagine there are many others who didn’t put two and two together and just believed that their milk ”dried up” all by itself or because they had returned to work. Since the resumption of birth control and going back to work often occur at about the same time, a mom could easily assume that being away from her baby for 8 hours per day is what caused the drop in milk production. So who knows how many mothers quit breastfeeding because of the Mirena? I believe the number is much, much larger than is reported.
The following is a story of a real client. It is similar to stories I hear from other moms who have chosen a hormonal method of birth control.
Margie called me because her milk supply had plummeted to just 2 oz per day. Her baby had had some problems that prevented him from breastfeeding, but she had been pumping since his birth so she knew exactly how much milk she tended to produce.
After Margie’s milk came in, she was able to pump 4 ounces every 2 hours—with a hand pump! She continued pumping regularly and always had more than her baby could eat. When her baby was two months old, she had the Mirena IUD inserted. She noticed a dip in her milk supply immediately, but it was gradual. She thought maybe it was because of the hand pump, so she tried a professional grade pump, then a hospital grade pump. Her supply continued to drop. Six weeks after the IUD was inserted, her milk supply had practically vanished—down to 2 oz per day. She had the IUD removed.
Maggie is now working hard, with my guidance, to increase her milk production. There is no doubt in her mind (or mine) what caused her supply to plummet. It makes me sad that anyone would have to go through what she has gone through. Especially since it was completely avoidable.
Talk to your doctor about your birth control options. Let him know that breastfeeding is important to you. Explore all options—keeping in mind that any birth control method is largely a “back up” method if you are fully breastfeeding and your baby is under 6 months old. Avoid any birth control method that relies on hormones. Remember that you will be breastfeeding for a relatively short period of time in your child’s life. The Mirena and other hormonal methods may be a good choice for you when your baby is older and is not reliant on your milk for nourishment. Lastly, if you have already instituted birth control that includes hormones, and you are concerned about milk production, please call for help!