Some people give birth once and swear off the baby-making process forever. Others, however, are eager to have another one on the way as soon as possible. Depending on your personal health and family goals, having multiple babies may make a lot of sense. Given that, how soon can you get pregnant after giving birth, and what are some general guidelines about timing multiple pregnancies?
As with basically everything else in the world of pregnancy, the initial answer is: It depends, but it is technically possible for a person to get pregnant within a month of having a baby. However, there are several things that come into play when looking at the question of how soon you can get pregnant after giving birth — the first being safety. “It is recommended not to get pregnant for 18 months after giving birth,” Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkins, D.O., board-certified OB/GYN, tells Romper. “It is safe to get pregnant after that time frame.”
While that is sound advice, the truth is it is possible to get pregnant again much quicker — though that is not recommended as the best course of action for everyone. According to a 2018 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, shorter intervals between pregnancies may increase the odds of premature birth or pregnancy complications. In order to mitigate these risks and give your body plenty of time to recover postpartum, waiting is considered safe when it comes to planning for another baby. For all you need to know about how soon you can get pregnant after giving birth, Romper asked three experts to weigh in.
When Do You Start Ovulating After Giving Birth?
It is technically possible to have a pretty quick turnaround in terms of making a sibling for your newborn. “Ovulation on average occurs approximately 45 days after birth, but may happen as early as 21 days after birth,” Perkins says. But exactly how soon it returns can vary greatly from person to person. As explained by a 2011 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the return of ovulation can range anywhere from the average 45 days all the way to 94 days postpartum. In other words, your mileage may vary. And remember: You will ovulate before your period returns, so you may not get much of a warning.
Can You Get Pregnant If You're Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can play a huge role in the return of your period and fertility. “There is definitely some truth to the idea of using breastfeeding as a method of pregnancy spacing,” Dr. Heather Skanes, M.D., an OB/GYN in Birmingham, AL, previously told Romper. “Infant suckling on the nipple alters the hypothalamus production of hormones necessary for ovulation, which means it keeps progesterone levels low.” Progesterone plays an important role in regulating your menstrual cycle and preparing the uterus for fertilization and pregnancy.
If breastfeeding is done exclusively, as Perkins explains, this may prevent ovulation from occurring, but it’s definitely not always the case. “One can definitely get pregnant while breastfeeding, even though some may use the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) for birth control,” Perkins says. “This type of birth control requires exclusive breastfeeding every four hours to prevent a person’s body from ovulating.” According to a 2015 study published in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, LAM has been proven to be a highly effective way of preventing pregnancy when done correctly, but it will become less effective after six months of breastfeeding.
Still, there is a possibility you could get pregnant again even while using LAM. Changes in your routine may trigger the return of your menstrual cycle — even something as simple as your baby sleeping all night — and you may become pregnant. And as Perkins says, “if a person is using supplemental feeding options in addition to breastfeeding, ovulation may occur randomly, and therefore pregnancy can occur.”
Signs You're Pregnant Even Though You're Breastfeeding
If you do become pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, you will likely experience common signs of first trimester pregnancy, along with a few new others. “Signs of pregnancy while breastfeeding [are] very similar to that which may be experienced by the average pregnant person, including new onset fatigue, nausea, and sore breasts,” Perkins says, “but may also include reduced milk production, abdominal cramps with breastfeeding, and extreme thirst.”
Additionally, the baby that you are feeding may notice a change in the taste of your breast milk. “Another possible sign of pregnancy is if your baby is less interested in breastfeeding due to the fact that the milk often changes, and some babies don't like the taste,” Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, previously told Romper.
Some additional pregnancy symptoms might occur in this situation, given the fact that your body is adjusting to the load of carrying a pregnancy while caring for a child. “Some people report worsened morning sickness or even more hunger,” Perkins says. “These symptoms occur as the body is simultaneously preparing for two babies with increased energy expenditure.”
Even with the knowledge of these signs, you ultimately can’t know if you're pregnant again until you’ve taken a pregnancy test and consulted with a medical professional. Knowing how soon you can get pregnant after giving birth is important to keep in mind as you plan for your future, and if you have concerns or questions, definitely speak with your OB/GYN or a fertility expert.
Schummers, L., Hutcheon, J. A., Hernandez-Diaz, S., Williams, P. L., Hacker, M. R., VanderWeele, T. J., & Norman, W. V. (2018). Association of short interpregnancy interval with pregnancy outcomes according to maternal age. JAMA Internal Medicine, 178(12), 1661. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4696
Jackson, E., & Glasier, A. (2011). Return of ovulation and menses in postpartum nonlactating women: a systematic review. Obstetrics and gynecology, 117(3), 657–662. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0b013e31820ce18c
Labbok M. H. (2015). Postpartum Sexuality and the Lactational Amenorrhea Method for Contraception. Clinical obstetrics and gynecology, 58(4), 915–927. https://doi.org/10.1097/GRF.0000000000000154
Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkins, D.O., board-certified OB/GYN
Dr. Heather Skanes, M.D., OB/GYN in Birmingham, AL
Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, registered nurse and lactation consultant
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