Natural Birth Control: Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)
It may not be at the forefront of your mind immediately after delivery, but it won't be long before your doctor brings up the subject of birth control. While options like the shot or an IUD are popular choices, many women want a reliable and natural birth control method. Natural family planning (NFP) and the fertility awareness method (FAM) are two natural options. The lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) is a particularly convenient natural choice if you're planning on breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months.
What is it?
LAM is a natural contraceptive method that you can use for up to six months after birth. It works is because the hormones that are responsible for producing breast milk also help suppress ovulation. A child exclusively breastfeeding during the first six months will be nursing quite often, so those hormone levels stay high. These high hormone levels continue to stop the release of the egg and the menstruation cycle.
Who can use it?
To be a candidate for LAM, you must meet all three of the following criteria:
- Your baby must be less than six months old. After six months, babies tend to sleep longer stretches and go further between meals, which can reduce efficacy.
- You cannot have had a period. Most women don't get their first post-birth period until after six months. However, some get their period back as early as eight weeks after delivery. As soon as you have a period, the LAM is no longer effective. Once you have a period, you will need to look at other options such as NFP or FAM if you wish to continue with a natural contraceptive method. This does not apply to spotting or bleeding within 56 days of birth.
- Your baby must be only getting breastmilk and cannot be going longer than four hours during the day or six hours at night between feedings. Keep in mind that this doesn't apply to small, occasional tastings of other foods. As soon as solid foods or other liquids (including supplemental formula) replace a feeding, you cannot rely on LAM. You should also discourage pacifier use. Even non-nutritive suckling helps keep breast milk supply up.
How effective is it?
An article in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care notes that LAM is 98 percent effective when used correctly. That means only two women out of every 100 will get pregnant. This is comparable with other popular birth control methods, such as the pill and condoms.
Why would I want to use it?
One main advantage of LAM is that it requires no additional action or tracking other than making sure that your baby is nursing at least every four hours. It's also free and doesn't interfere with spontaneous intercourse. Plus, you don't have to worry about refilling prescriptions or side effects from hormonal birth control methods.
Have you considered LAM as a natural birth control option?