Have you had a baby recently and feel ready to grow your family again? Are you wondering about the perfect timing between your little ones? Having another pregnancy without adequate time for your body to heal may put both you and the new baby at risk. Arm yourself with the facts, so your subsequent pregnancy is as safe as possible.
It is possible to ovulate and get pregnant again three weeks after delivery – before your period has returned.
Breastfeeding can delay the return of ovulation, but it is not a reliable method of birth control.
If you had a preterm delivery, getting pregnant again within six months increases your risk of another preterm birth by up to 47%.
If you had a C-section, getting pregnant again before 18 months makes it three times as likely to have uterine rupture if you go into labor.
It is vital to make a birth control plan. Up to 45% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. One in three pregnancies that follow a pregnancy start before 18 months post-birth.
Can I get pregnant right after giving birth?
You can ovulate and get pregnant as early as three weeks after giving birth. The timing depends on many factors, including how your body recovers from childbirth. Every woman’s body is different. For some, having your period return may take much longer. In women not breastfeeding, your period usually returns at about 12 weeks.
What if I am breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can delay the return of ovulation for a long time, depending on how often your baby nurses. Nursing a baby on demand – frequently throughout the day and night – encourages high levels of the hormone prolactin, which stops the production of the hormones that cause ovulation.
Most babies in the United States begin eating solid food and nursing less frequently around six months. They are also encouraged to sleep for longer stretches at night. With those conditions, ovulation usually returns at around six months, when weaning starts. A study of hunter-gatherers who practice on-demand breastfeeding through the day and night found that ovulation was delayed for one to two years, and possibly longer.
According to the American College of Gynecologists, women should breastfeed as a vital part of maintaining health between pregnancies. Breastfeeding between pregnancies, allowing your body time to heal, and adequate nutrition are all essential to supporting future pregnancies' health.
In a recent study, researchers found that if 90% of women breastfed exclusively for six months, with continued breastfeeding to one year after delivery, it would prevent:
- 5,023 cases of breast cancer a year
- 12,320 cases of type 2 diabetes a year
- 35,982 cases of high blood pressure a year
- 8,487 heart attacks a year
Experts recommend you take prenatal vitamins and eat a healthy diet while you are breastfeeding. If you are planning to get pregnant again, make sure that you take a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, starting at least a month before you get pregnant again.
Even though breastfeeding can delay ovulation, it is not a reliable method of birth control. Because of variables in your lifestyle, your body, and your baby’s feeding schedule, you can start ovulating again at any time. Ovulation can happen before your period returns, so you may not even know you are in a fertile time for conception.
Is it safe to get pregnant again right away?
Getting pregnant immediately after having a baby and delivering safely is possible but comes with increased risks. Studies show some increase in risk with less than 18 months between pregnancies, and a higher level of increased risk with less than six months. The American College of Gynecologists advises avoiding getting pregnant within the first six months of having a baby and waiting 18 months between pregnancies for the best outcomes.
What are the risks?
- Preterm birth. If you have had a preterm baby, your risk of having another preterm birth increases by 14-47% if you get pregnant again immediately.
- Uterine rupture. If you had a C-section, you are three times as likely to have uterine rupture during labor if you got pregnant with less than 18 months between pregnancies.
- Loss of life. Uterine rupture is life-threatening for both the mother and baby. You are also more likely to need blood transfusions and have a slower recovery.
One out of three pregnancies that follow another pregnancy in the United States start within 18 months of delivery. Up to 45% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Whether you are planning the right time for your subsequent pregnancy or unsure if you want to get pregnant again, it is essential to talk to your doctor about the right birth control option.
It is vital to make a birth control plan, so that you don't become pregnant soon after giving birth to your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options and timing for a subsequent child.
- American College of Gynecologists. Interpregnancy Care.
- National Health Service UK. Sex and contraception after birth.
- Family Health International, International Fertility Research Program. How breastfeeding postpones ovulation.
- Maternal and Child Nutrition. Suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: Maternal and pediatric health outcomes and costs.
- Obstetrics and Gynecology. Interdelivery interval and risk of uterine rupture.
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- Obstetrics and Gynecology. Interpregnancy interval and the risk of premature infants.