Combined hormonal versus nonhormonal versus progestin-only contraception in lactation.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003CD
Contraception for women who are breastfeeding is a public health issue of global importance. Each year over 100 million women make decisions about beginning or resuming contraception after childbirth. These decisions include both the choice of contraceptive method and the time at which its use begins, both of which continue to be debated by experts. Choices of contraception may be limited for lactating women due to concerns about hormonal effects on quality and quantity of milk, passage of hormones to the infant, and infant growth. Ideally, the contraceptive method chosen should not interfere with lactation. Additionally, because the return of menstruation and ovulation can be unpredictable in breastfeeding women, the timing of contraception initiation is important.
To determine the effect of combined oral contraceptives and progestin-only contraceptives on lactation. The a priori hypothesis is that combined oral contraception impairs lactation, making it less appropriate than progestin-only or nonhormonal contraception for breastfeeding women.
We used PUBMED, POPLINE, EMBASE, LILACS, and Cochrane Controlled Trials Register computer searches, supplemented by review articles and contact with investigators.
We sought all randomized controlled trials, reported in any language, that included any form of hormonal contraception compared with another form of hormonal contraception, nonhormonal contraception, or placebo during lactation. Hormonal contraception could include combined oral or injectable contraceptives, progestin-only oral or injectable contraceptives, hormonal implants, or hormonal intrauterine devices. Study participants included breastfeeding women of any age or parity who desired contraception.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
We evaluated the methodological quality of each report and sought to identify duplicate reporting of data from multicenter trials. We abstracted data onto data collection forms. Principal outcome measures included quantity of milk; biochemical analysis of milk composition; initiation, maintenance and duration of lactation; infant growth; efficacy of contraceptive method while breastfeeding; and timing of contraception initiation and its effects on lactation. Because the trials did not have uniform interventions, often lacked quantifiable outcomes, and had poor methodological quality, we could not aggregate the data in a meta-analyses.
Seven reports from five randomized controlled trials met our inclusion criteria. Most of the five trials did not specify their method used to generate a random sequence, method of allocation concealment, blinding of treatments, or use of an intention-to-treat analysis. Additionally, high loss to follow-up rates invalidated at least two studies. The findings from two reports comparing oral contraceptives to placebo during lactation were conflicting. Another trial found no inhibitory effects on lactation from progestin-only contraceptives. Finally, the WHO trial found no effect of progestin-only contraceptives on lactation but a decline in breast milk volume from combination contraceptives during lactation. High loss to follow-up rates, however, undermine the credibility of the WHO trial. No significant differences in infant growth or weight appeared in any of the included trials as a result of the use of hormonal contraception during lactation.
Evidence from randomized controlled trials on the effect of hormonal contraceptives during lactation is limited and of poor quality; results should be interpreted with caution. The existing randomized controlled trials are insufficient to establish an effect of hormonal contraception, if any, on milk quality and quantity. Evidence is inadequate to make recommendations regarding hormonal contraceptive use for lactating women. At least one properly conducted randomized controlled trial of adequate size is urgently needed to address this question.