Getting Pregnant Soon After Having a Baby: Facts and Myths

September 21, 2014 at 9:09 AM

This post provides an overview on pregnancy spacing with focus on facts, myths and possible risks and side effects of getting pregnant soon after a birth for the mother, the current child and a newborn.

Are You Ready?

Having a little angel playing in your arms is perhaps the most blessed feelings that a person could think of. This little star is your entire world now and needs all your attention. This is possible only when you don’t end up conceiving soon after delivery. Conceiving soon after one delivery is not the best of plans that you should consider. Not only will it make you neglect your current baby but will also result in countless complications, both for you and for your coming baby. Therefore, appropriate birth spacing is the best plan of action as most researchers suggest that you should wait for at least wait for two to three years before you could conceive again. But contraception after delivering a baby is not as simple as it is before giving birth to a baby. A lot of misconceptions and misinformation usually circulates on web and the knowledge on how to avoid conceiving and how soon it is safe to conceive after one delivery is absolutely lacking. If you have been wondering about these questions and need appropriate answers then this article is all you need. In this article we’ll discuss the myths and facts related to conceiving soon after birth, risks associated with closely spaces births and related questions.

How soon can you conceive after one delivery?

Delivery is an exhausting experience in itself. Body takes a while to recover for the physical, emotional and hormonal outcomes of this phase. It takes a great toll on your body and literally puts all of your systems out of balance. Therefore, your body needs some time to recover from the damage done by the process of pregnancy and delivery. While your body is in recovery phase, it doesn’t ovulate and virtually you can’t conceive till the hormonal status of your body comes back to normal.

But one question that needs answering here is that how soon can you conceive, intentionally or unintentionally, after one delivery?

People might have told you or you might have read somewhere that you can’t conceive for as long as 6 months after delivery even if you’re not breastfeeding (if you’re breastfeeding in these 6 months then it’s a different story and we’ll explain that in detail in subsequent sections). But trust me, this is an absolute myth! A research was conducted to see how soon a female starts to ovulate after delivery. Results of the study showed that most of the females start to ovulate within 45 to 95 days of delivery. It was also found that some ended up ovulating as soon as 3 weeks after birth. So, be careful and don’t indulge in any hasty action like unprotected sex after delivery.

Is breastfeeding enough to produce contraception?

If you’ve been attending your gynecologist regularly before and after delivery then you must have noticed that she has been putting utmost emphasis on you breastfeeding your baby for at least 6 months. This, undoubtedly, is important for your baby but breastfeeding is important for you too! But how so? It has been long recognized that breastfeeding has contraceptive action. Results of abundant studies have repeatedly shown that females who breastfeed their babies don’t conceive for as long as they continue the process of breastfeeding. For you to understand how the contraceptive action of breastfeeding works, you need to know some basics. The regular process of ovulation depends on intricate balance of several hormone. One such hormone is the luteinizing hormone (LH). LH is a hormone secreted by pituitary gland that induces ovulation (release of egg). Without LH you can’t ovulate and this way you won’t end up conceiving. Studies have shown that the sucking action of baby stimulates pituitary gland such that it stops producing LH. No LH means no ovulation and no resultant pregnancy. But the trend are changing now. Now the researchers believe that breastfeeding alone might not be enough to produce contraception. Therefore, women should start utilizing additional contraception even after 3 weeks of giving birth, as per a study conducted by the American Council Obstetrics & Gynecology. The details of contraceptive use are discussed in following section.

Reality of Post-Partum Contraception!

It is very commonly believed that the use of contraceptives as a whole or utilizing a few sorts of preventive pills after pregnancy is hazardous on the grounds that the estrogen in pills and post-pregnancy hormones significantly increase the chances of a lady developing blood clots. When asked about the post-partum (after pregnancy) contraception, Dr. Jackson, a representative from World Health Organization (WHO), said: "For ladies with another child, contraception may not be at the highest priority on their rundown of concerns." He further added: "It is truly important that individuals who provide medical assistance to postpartum ladies raise the subject of contraceptives, alarm them that they shouldn’t conceive again soon after having a baby, and verify that ladies have their picked technique before they get to ovulate once more." 

Breastfeeding is an effective contraceptive. But what if a female is not breastfeeding? Will she still not be able to conceive for as long as 6 months? Dr. Jackson and her partner Dr. Anna Glasier explored four studies that have analyzed when non-breastfeeding ladies start to ovulate again soon after giving birth. In the greater part of the studies joined together, ovulation began, on average, somewhere around 45-94 days after a lady delivered an offspring. On the other hand, in two studies ladies began ovulating as soon as 25-27 days right after giving birth. But whether these ovulation can result in conception is still an incompletely understood thing and it is safe to believe that those initial cycle may result in conception. In light of these results, and on information in regards to the probability of blood clumps, the WHO confirmed that the advantages of beginning preventative pills likely exceed any dangers beginning at 3 weeks after conception.

After six weeks, WHO scientists recommend that there ought to be no confinements on new moms taking preventative pills. Here are eight paramount - and to some extent amazing - realities regarding post-partum birth control system:

A new mother can get pregnant before she has even gotten her period

The first question here is if the women should wait for at least the first post-partum menstrual cycle to start the use of contraceptives? The answer is no! Since ovulation happens two weeks prior to the period, a new mother should not hold up using contraceptive until she has gotten her period again to start utilizing birth control. As per WHO recommendations, you can start the use of contraceptive as soon as 3 weeks after delivery after consulting with your physician.

Simply on the grounds that a lady is breastfeeding does not mean she can't get pregnant

As mentioned before, breastfeeding has contraceptive effects of its own. But these contraceptive effects of breastfeeding are not perfect. There are certain criteria that new mother's breastfeeding patterns must meet before she can depend on breastfeeding alone as a tool for birth control. Even if you’re a breasting feeding female, your chances of getting pregnant would decrease only merely if you don’t fulfill following criteria:

  • You must breastfeed your baby for as much as 4 hours during the day time.
  • You must breastfeed your baby for at least six hours at night.
  • The 90-95 percent of the baby’s nutritional requirements should solely come from breastfeeding.
  • You must exclusively breastfeed your baby for at least six months. If you’re fulfilling these 4 criteria then you can think of relying exclusively on breastfeeding as a contraceptive strategy. If can’t fulfill any one of the above points then you better start using additional contraceptives after consulting with your physician.

Non-breastfeeding ladies ovulate for the very first time, as a rule, 45 days after giving birth

If you’re not breastfeeding your baby and not using any contraceptive too then will most likely ovulate between the 25th and 72nd days after giving birth. Forty-five days is the average. These ovulations might not result in pregnancy but you never know when you might end up conceiving without the aid of contraceptives.

A few types of birth control need a few weeks to be effective

Some of the contraception pills need some time to bring about their peak effects. This, joined with the way that a lady may start ovulating as soon as 25 days after conceiving an offspring, shows that a mother should start contemplating about the use of conception prevention techniques at the earliest opportunity in the wake of having the child.

Those Ladies who are breastfeeding should not take birth control pills including estrogen

Not all types of contraceptive pills are suitable for contraception if you’re breastfeeding your baby. Estrogen is the main culprit regarding a lot of confrontation about whether combined hormonal supplements should be used by breast feeding females or not.

Estrogen containing pills might increase the chances of following adverse outcomes:

  • Estrogen in combined hormonal contraceptives can decrease the production of milk.
  • It can increase the incidence of deep venous thrombosis.
  • Estrogen in birth control pills have also been suspected for its role in growth retardation in children. A healthy alternative is to use progesterone only pills for as long 7 weeks after delivery. According to WHO, even breastfeeding females can start the use of combined (containing both estrogen and progesterone) after 7 weeks of delivery. Therefore, preventative pills that contain progestin only should be sheltered immediately after that woman gives birth, thus these could be an alternative for ladies, said Dr. Kavita Nanda, a scientist at Family Health International

Hormonal ways for birth control are for the most part more powerful than barrier methods

If you’re afraid of the side effects that hormonal methods of contraception might bring, you might think of using alternative methods like use of IUD rings as contraceptive methods. These methods are usually safer and are free of the side effects that usually follow the use of contraceptives. But hormonal types of birth control, for example the use pill, a patch, the Depo-provera, and IUD infusions offers new mothers a 99 % viable rate. Barrier methods, for example, IUD rings, condoms, diaphragm, or spermicide offer minimum protection- an 85% effective rate.

A lady should be refitted for a diaphragm right after giving birth

If you’re using some mechanical method for contraception like diaphragm then it would need adjustment after birth. Since labor can influence the shape and size of a woman’s vagina, diaphragm resizing should to be carried out before that woman can continue intercourse after pregnancy.

Tubal ligation, also called as getting your tubes tied, is the most prevalent manifestation of birth control for woman in the US

18 % of ladies in the U.S. decided on tubal ligation in the wake of choosing that their family was complete. This technique could be executed right after that day of giving birth. This is the surest way of not getting pregnant soon after birth.

How soon is too soon? - Pregnancy spacing!

Well, there is no clear cut off limit that could define when you should go for one more pregnancy without putting yourself and your baby in danger. But it’s a general consensus in medical communities that more is the birth spacing, better are the overall outcomes of the next pregnancy both for the mother and child. Moreover, this way the parents can focus more on the current child without having to think about another one. Pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding is an exhaustive process. It takes great toll on the body of the female as a lot of energy and nutrients are drained from her body towards her baby. So, before she could think of another pregnancy she should make sure that her mental and physical health has been resorted to the best possible levels. Previously, it was believed that a women should wait for at least 2 years before she could go for one more pregnancy. But newer studies conducted at the University of Utah, USA showed that the optimum birth spacing should be at least 2 ½ to 3 years because this is the time the mother and child needs to shed off the effects of birth and breastfeeding. What are the risks of close birth spacing? A question might be bugging your mind by now that what would happen if someone ends up conceiving soon after one delivery?

Doctor examining a pregnant woman belly

What can possibly go wrong?

Well, multiple, closely spaced pregnancies are still the most prevalent cause of death among pregnant females worldwide. Not only this, conceiving soon after birth can negatively affect the health of your current baby and the child yet to come. Below are discussed the complications and risks associated with closely spaced pregnancies.

Risks/ Side effects for the mother!

Pregnancy and childbirth is an expensive process. The growing child derives virtually all the energy and nutrients from his mother. During pregnancy the mother needs to get an extra of 60,000 Kcal to nurture her child without complications. All this extra energy comes for the previous energy stores and extra energy that the mother consume during the process of pregnancy. If the pregnancy is not properly spaced, the mother will run out of her energy stores very quickly. So, closely spaced pregnancies will leave such mother weak and susceptible to several other complications. Moreover, a research conducted at the University of Utah, USA showed that females who had to deliver babies repeatedly without proper spacing ended up having a number of gynecological complications.

Abnormal bleeding is the most frequent finding in such females. Moreover, repeated pregnancies destroy the architecture of pelvic structures like uterus and make the females more prone to develop pelvic infections and inflammations. It might also affect surrounding pelvic structures like urinary bladder and the females might end up developing complications like urinary incontinence. Such females are more prone to develop pregnancy associated systemic complications like anemia, pregnancy induced hypertension, diabetes and osteoporosis. As a worst case scenario, multiple pregnancies and deliveries significantly increase the risk of maternal death. Results of several studies have shown that women with history of multiple pregnancies had increased mortality during delivery process as compared to other females.

Risks/ Side effects for the Current Child

Your current baby should be the center of your attention. You should think more about raising him than brining a new life to his world. In addition to the mental stress than it might put on the baby following neglect, a number of other side effects may also surface. Your baby is dependent on your for proper nutrition. Breastfeeding is the best gift you can give to your child at this time. But it would be very difficult for you to keep your child fed if you’re pregnant with the lump on your belly. Your protection and the protection offered by your milk can save your child from a number of diseases like respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal disorders. Bottle feeding will just make the situation worse as you’ll expose your child to a bunch of ailments. Moreover, due to lack of proper nutrition, such children are more likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies and growth disorders as compared to those children who are breastfed by their mothers.

Risks/Side effects for the new child

Now we come to the most vulnerable group that gets affected by your decision of getting pregnant soon after having one baby. That vulnerable group is that of the child that has yet to come. There is a lot list of side effects that narrow birth spacing can have on the new child yet to come. Some are discussed as follows:

The greatest fear of females getting pregnant multiple times in very short time is the increased chances of child death. Results of several epidemiological studies have shown that among the most important risk factors that govern early childhood or pregnancy related deaths in the children is their mothers getting pregnant multiple times without giving proper space between consecutive pregnancies.

  • One of the most important predictors of poor child health soon after birth is the low birth weight. Studies have shown that children with low birth weight are more likely to suffer from different diseases and have more chances of being physically and mentally impaired. And closely spaced pregnancies is one of the most important risk factors for low birth weight.
  • Pre-mature birth of child, like low birth weight, is another important harbinger of countless complications for the child. Pre-mature children most commonly have a lot of developmental anomalies like heart defects, problems of the respiratory tract etc. The chances of pre-mature birth increase significantly if the mother has been pregnant several times before and has not been giving appropriate intervals in her pregnancies. Failure of the mother’s body to provide the child with much needed energy and nutrition is the most likely cause of low birth weight.
  • Another important outcome of narrow birth spacing is increased chances of congenital abnormalities in the children. Even if the child you give birth to manages to survive through all these hardships, you’ll not be able to provide him/her with much needed care and attention. This, again, will be deleterious for your baby in the longer run. So be careful the choices you make in life.

To conclude, pregnancy and childbirth is a difficult process both for mother and the children. Care and prevention are the only possible ways in which a keen mother can avoid all the complications. One such preventive strategy is to observe appropriate birth spacing and not to conceive for as long as 2 ½ to 3 years after one childbirth. Remember, what choices you make don’t influence you only. They influence the people around you too. In this case, it is going to be your baby. In addition to breastfeeding you should use additional contraceptive methods after proper consultation with your doctor. This is the only way you can ensure the better health and future of your current child and the children yet to come in the future.

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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Physician
Published: September 21, 2014 at 9:09 AM
Next scheduled update: September 21, 2016 at 9:09 AM
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