How Soon Can You Get Pregnant After Childbirth?

By Kristine Tucker
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Every woman responds differently to childbirth and pregnancy, but there are normal cyclical patterns that can effect when you start ovulating again, making another pregnancy possible. Getting pregnant before your body has had time to heal can negatively effect the unborn baby's and your health. However, health problems with getting pregnant too soon after childbirth aren't firmly linked to biological causes. Socioeconomics, a woman's mental and physical health and the type of prenatal care she receives are also important factors. Talk to your doctor about safe birth control methods if you don't want to get pregnant too soon after childbirth.

Earliest Possible Time Frame

It is possible to get pregnant during the first month after giving birth. According to general practitioner, Dr. Louise Newson, pregnancy can occur from the time your baby is 21 days old -- just three weeks after delivery. The first postpartum egg is generally released before the first postpartum period. So whether you've not had a period yet, and whether your baby was born prematurely or arrive late, simply count 21 days from the day you gave birth to determine your first possible fertility date.

Breastfeeding Considerations

Breastfeeding can delay ovulation, but there's no guarantee how long it might postpone it. If you're breastfeeding regularly -- day and night with only a few hours between feedings -- you might not ovulate for a year or more after giving birth, says obstetrician and fertility expert, Robert Zurawin. However, if your baby sleeps through the night or you supplement feedings with formula, you'll likely resume menstruation more quickly. Breastfeeding may suppress hormones that normally trigger ovulation, but there's no guarantee that you won't still ovulate. If you want to ensure that you don't get pregnant too soon after childbirth, use a safe form of birth control every time you have sex.

Health Concerns for Mom and Baby

Not all pregnancies that occur shortly after childbirth result in health problems. However, getting pregnant too soon after having a baby might not give your body enough time to replenish valuable nutrients, such as iron and folate -- a type of B vitamin -- according to the Mayo Clinic. A pregnancy less than 12 months after delivery could cause a woman's placenta to pull away from the uterus, putting the baby and mother at risk. A pregnancy less than 18 months after childbirth is sometimes associated with an increased risk of a low birth weight or preterm birth, cautions the Mayo Clinic.

If you get pregnant while you're still breastfeeding your first child, and especially if you've had previous miscarriages or have a history of premature delivery, talk to your OB-GYN if you have any uterine contractions. Nipple stimulation during breastfeeding can increase your risk of delivering too soon, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most often there is no cause for great concern, but it’s important to be sensitive to your body’s signals.

Safe Birth Control Methods

Wait at least three weeks after giving birth before you use birth control methods that contain estrogen and progestin, such as the pill, the patch and the vaginal ring, recommends the Office on Women's Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Early use of these methods can lead to dangerous blood clots for women who've just had a baby. If you had a caesarean section or you have any blood clot risk factors, wait six weeks before using these birth control methods. Blood clot risk factors include obesity, smoking, a previous history of blood clots and preeclampsia -- a pregnancy or postpartum condition that includes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Consult with your doctor to determine which alternate birth control method is best for you and your partner.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.