What is lactational amenorrhea?
This is a temporary contraceptive method that relies on exclusive breast feeding. It can be used from birth up to six months afterwards.
Producing milk is called lactating and not having a period is called amenorrhea, hence this method of birth control is called lactational amenorrhea (or LAM).
How does this method work?
If a woman exclusively breastfeeds her baby for six months, the hormones that produce the breast milk will also work to stop the ovaries from releasing an egg (that is, there will be no ovulation) for the first six months after the baby is born. A woman doesn't get her period during this time.
For this method to work, the following three conditions must be met.
1. The baby must be under six months of age AND
2. The woman must not have had a period AND
3. The baby must be exclusively breastfed (no formula or pablum with breast feeds at least every four hours during the day and at least every six hours at night).
How effective is it?
- Lactational amenorrhea is between 98% and 99.5% effective in preventing a pregnancy.
- If any of the criteria changes, such as you get your period or you start feeding your baby formula or pablum, then you need to assume the LAM is no longer working and you need to use another form of birth control. It is useful to have some condoms to use in case one of the criteria changes.
- It costs nothing
- Easy to use
- No clinic visits or external drugs required
- No hormones that interfere with breast feeding
- Does not interrupt intercourse
- It only lasts for six months after your baby is born
- It is not reliable if your baby is fed any pablum or formula
- It is difficult to predict if your ovaries are ready to start releasing an egg (ovulating). However, as soon as you have a period, you should use another method of birth control, if you have not already done so.
- Requires frequent breastfeeding (see above) which may be difficult for some women
- Does not protect against STIs
- LAM helps the woman's body return to its pre-pregnancy state
- Helps the woman to return to normal weight
- Vaginal dryness related to breastfeeding can be improved by using water-based lubricant
- Women who are HIV+ should discuss the risks and benefits of LAM with their physician
Revised March 2009