Risks of Getting Pregnant Right After Giving Birth

Mother and her newborn baby (0-1 months)
Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON./Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Are you wondering how soon you can get pregnant after birth? The answer is sooner than you probably think. Do you ever wonder if anyone shows up at their six-week checkup pregnant? The answer is a resounding yes! Many moms are led to believe that they cannot get pregnant soon after delivery.

The Possibility of Getting Pregnant Soon After Giving Birth

Whether you had a vaginal birth or c-section, your body is capable of getting pregnant very shortly after giving birth. You may not even notice that you have had your period because you can ovulate before having your first postpartum period.

Despite the fact that it is not recommended that you have sex prior to your six-week checkup, it happens. If you don't use birth control, you can get pregnant. Consider alternatives to sexual intercourse both for reasons of healing from giving birth but also from the standpoint of birth control. While you may be asked in the hospital what your method of birth control will be, most people have not yet gotten their birth control started, particularly if they are breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding, while it may delay ovulation in some women, is not an effective method of birth control unless you are following the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM). This is a very specific method of birth control that requires a lot of time and constraint. It also means that you never use a breast pump and your baby never gets a pacifier and that your baby does not sleep through the night. This is a standard that is difficult for most women to achieve.

Risks of Pregnancy Within Six Months of Giving Birth

If you think this is a conversation just all about people trying to control your body, you're wrong. There is good evidence that women who have babies closer together have riskier pregnancies the second time. This is because their body has not yet fully healed from giving birth. Even when you are at the point of feeling physically healed, there is still a matter of hormones and nutrients that your body is still recovering.

If you have a pregnancy within six months of giving birth, you also increase the risk for your pregnancy having complications. This includes:

  • Preterm birth
  • Premature water breaking
  • Your baby being small for gestational age
  • Increase in congenital anomalies (birth defects)

While the outcomes are slightly better if you wait between six months and 18 months, the pregnancies that do the best are those where the mother has at least 18 months since she last gave birth. This gives her body the time it needs to heal and reduces the risks of the short interval since her last birth. It also gives her time to plan her next pregnancy and receive preconception counseling. This will help her reduce the risks of complications even further. It is also interesting to note that pregnancies more than five years apart also carry additional risks.

What to Do If You Think You're Pregnant Again

If you think you are pregnant, talk to your practitioner, even if you don't want to admit that you are worried that you're pregnant. If you are pregnant, this pregnancy and baby will need its own set of prenatal care to help monitor and minimize risk where possible.

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Article Sources
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  1. Mcneilly AS, Glasier AF, Howie PW, Houston MJ, Cook A, Boyle H. Fertility after childbirth: pregnancy associated with breast feeding. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1983;19(2):167-73. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2265.1983.tb02978.x

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Lactational Amenorrhea Method. Updated May 2019.

  3. Schummers L, Hutcheon JA, Hernandez-diaz S, et al. Association of Short Interpregnancy Interval With Pregnancy Outcomes According to Maternal Age. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(12):1661-1670. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4696

Additional Reading
  • Ekin A, Gezer C, Taner CE, Ozeren M, Mat E, Solmaz U. Impact of Interpregnancy Interval on the Subsequent Risk of Adverse Perinatal Outcomes.J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2015 Nov;41(11):1744-51. doi: 10.1111/jog.12783

  • Perin J, Walker N. Potential Confounding in the Association Between Short Birth Intervals and Increased Neonatal, Infant, and Child Mortality. Glob Health Action. 2015 Nov 9. doi: 10.3402/gha.v8.29724