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, but this is a misconception.

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 can ovulate before having your first postpartum period, and as soon as you ovulate, you can conceive.

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 for reasons of healing from giving birth but also to prevent pregnancy.

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. It means that you never use a breast pump, your baby never gets a pacifier, and 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

There is good evidence that women who have babies closer together have riskier pregnancies the second time. This is because their bodies have not yet fully healed from giving birth. Even when you feel physically healed, your body is adjusting to changing levels of hormones and nutrients.

If you have a pregnancy within six months of giving birth, you increase the risk for complications such as:

  • Birth defects
  • Growth restriction in the baby
  • Premature rupture of membranes (water breaking)
  • Preterm birth

While outcomes are slightly better if you wait at least six months between pregnancies, waiting at least 18 months is best. This gives the body time to heal and reduces the risks of complications. It also gives you time to plan your next pregnancy and receive preconception counseling, which reduces the risks of complications even further. (Pregnancies more than five years apart also carry 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 might be pregnant. If you are, you will need prenatal care to help monitor the pregnancy and baby and minimize risk where possible.

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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 19, 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

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