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Hormones for Birth Control or Menopause

A quick word about hormones. Whether you are taking hormones for birth control or as replacement therapy during menopause, a word of caution is in order.

You may experience depression after about three months of taking oral contraceptives. Several pharmacists have told me it is quite common, but not much talked about. The good news is that topical hormones, such as the estrogen skin patch and a topical cream for progesterone do not result in any depression for most individuals. The topical progesterone cream needs to be prescribed by a medical doctor and made by a compounding pharmacy. Both hormones are prescription-only, so you must see a physician to try this alternative.

After childbirth, if you plan to breast feed your baby, please note that contraceptive hormones interfere with the mother’s milk supply if taken in the first six weeks after birth. Multiple barrier methods may be preferred for contraception if you want to insure an adequate milk supply for your baby. Note that a bra that is too tight can also suppress lactation.

It takes five to 10 days for a woman’s milk supply to be fully established. The infant’s stomach is so tiny that it cannot take a large amount at any one time and so it is that the baby needs to feed often during an entire 24-hour period. The more often baby feeds, the better your milk supply will be. This is because the action of the baby nursing sends hormonal messages to your brain that say “Oh, we need to make more milk and keep on making milk.” Pacifiers and bottles do not send that message to your brain and their use will lessen your milk supply. In the first month after birth it is particularly important to let baby nurse on demand and avoid pacifiers and bottles even if it is your breast milk in the bottle. However, using a pump or hand to express your milk will still enable your body to send a message to your brain to make more milk, or as much as baby needs.