Emergency contraceptive pills as a backup for lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) of contraception: a randomized controlled trial

Contraception. 2013 Mar;87(3):363-9. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2012.07.013. Epub 2012 Aug 27.


Background: The use of breastfeeding as a method of birth spacing occasionally ends in "unplanned pregnancy." This is due to unexpected expiration of one or more of the lactation amenorrhea method (LAM) prerequisites. The current study tests a new concept that the in-advance provision of single packet of progestogen emergency contraception (EC) pills during the postpartum LAM counseling may decrease the incidence of unplanned pregnancy during breastfeeding.

Study design: This was a registered two-armed randomized controlled trial (NCT 01111929). Women intending to breastfeed and to postpone pregnancy for 1 year or more were approached. They received adequate postpartum contraceptive counseling. Women intending to use LAM were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The LAM-only group received the proper LAM counseling and did not receive counseling about EC. The LAM-EC group received counseling for both LAM and EC with in-advance provision of one packet of EC pills. They were advised to use these pills if one of the prerequisites of LAM expires and sexual relation has occurred before the initiation of another regular contraceptive protection. All the participants were advised that they need to use another regular method upon expiration of any of the LAM prerequisites.

Results: Eligible women were 1158 parturients randomized into two equal groups. Forty-four percent of the women provided with EC used them. Significantly more women in the LAM-EC group initiated regular contraception within or shortly after the first 6 months postpartum when compared with those in the LAM-only group (30.5% vs. 7.3%, respectively; p=.0004). Pregnancy occurred in 5% of the LAM-only group as compared with 0.8% in the LAM-EC group (p=.005). Minimal side effects were reported after EC use.

Conclusion: In-advance provision of EC pills can increase the rate of initiation of regular contraception once one or more of the prerequisites of LAM expire. Consequently, the use of EC pills as a temporary backup of LAM can decrease the incidence of unplanned pregnancy during breastfeeding. The use of progestogen EC pill during lactation is safe and tolerable.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01111929.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amenorrhea*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception, Postcoital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01111929