Many women wonder how soon after having a baby they can fall pregnant again. Some may be worried about trying to prevent it from happening, while others are joyfully ready to plan for a sibling for their newborn. Either way, there are some pros and cons to conceiving soon after a birth that women should be aware of.
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The Pros of Getting Pregnant after Birth
While some people may argue, there are some pluses to having a baby when you still have an infant at home, such as:
- Brothers and sisters are developmental compliments to one another
- Preeclampsia is less likely to occur
- Siblings close in age will be close friends
- Stay at home parents can return to work sooner
- Hand-me-downs galore!
Many parents decide to have more than one child so that the first will have a playmate. Otherwise, an only child can often lean on the parent to be their best friend. Pairing children who are close in age is best because they are on the same timeline developmentally and serve to be good peer examples for one another throughout life. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology notes that preeclampsia is less likely to occur in a subsequent pregnancy the closer it occurs to the first.
Siblings who are close in age are more likely to be friends before adulthood. When you have all your children in a shorter span of time, the day you can return to work from staying at home raising them comes a lot sooner. This has personal, professional and financial benefits. Financially, having two children close together can have its upside. Passing on the crib and clothing to the next child instead of buying everything new a few years down the road is the only way some families can even afford more than one infant.
The Cons of Getting Pregnant after Birth
Of course, where there are positives there are negatives, too. The cons of closely spacing children include:
- Daycare costs for two small children at the same time
- College costs for two children close together will be taxing
- Two back-to-back pregnancies are harder on Mom’s body
- Greater likelihood of autism in child number two when born closer to child number one
- Placental abruption and previa
- Labor complications
Anemia is more likely to occur in closely spaced subsequent pregnancies because of this, the Journal of Gynecology, Obstetrics and the Biology of Reproduction reports. These same discrepancies in nutrition levels can impact fetal development. In fact, babies who are born to mothers that delivered a previous child a year prior have triple the risk of developing autism, according to a Journal of Epidemiology study.
Placental abruption is more common in pregnancies that are closely interspaced, a study in the American Journal of Gynecology notes. In fact, complications during labor and childbirth are 3.4 times more probable in the subsequent pregnancy if it’s too soon after the preceding one, the Michigan Department of Community Health states.
Timing Is Everything
There are some hurdles to conceiving soon after birth. First and foremost, you have to wait for your cycle to return and there’s no way to predict when that will be. Some women will get their first period as soon as six weeks after birth, while others may wait for months.
In addition, if you’re breastfeeding your baby, trying to have another can be even more complicated. For many women, breastfeeding will delay the menstrual cycle from returning. Without a cycle, there is no ovulation. Breastfeeding produces a chemical called prolactin, which is responsible for milk production. The higher prolactin is, the lower are estrogen and progesterone, which are both needed for ovulation and menses to occur.
Some women will still see their cycle return even while exclusively breastfeeding. Others will get it back when they introduce solid foods to their baby — which shouldn’t happen before six to eight months at the earliest. Still, some won’t have their cycle return until they completely stop breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until at least age two, so this could mean a long wait for some parents who are looking to provide optimal nutrition to their current baby while also wanting to have another. Women who don’t breastfeed typically see their period return around 45 days after delivery on average, per Parents Magazine.
Safety Goes First
There are also safety measures that need to be considered regarding getting pregnant again soon after childbirth. The March of Dimes promotes 18 months — at least — as a good timeline for spacing purposes. Pregnancy seriously depletes the mother’s body of essential vitamins and nutrients that are needed to grow a healthy baby. It can take upwards of a year for it to fully bounce back and replenish those nutritional deficiencies.
Complications from one birth can impact the next pregnancy and delivery, as well. For instance, women who deliver by Cesarean are advised to wait at least six months to conceive again in order to allow their uterus and abdominal wall to heal prior to another pregnancy stretching it out and causing contractions. For those who want to attempt a vaginal birth (VBAC) the next time around, some doctors and hospitals enforce a strict policy that requires one, two and sometimes even three years between births. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports a three-fold increased risk of uterine rupture for women who attempt to have a VBAC with a pregnancy that began fewer than six months after the end of the last one.
In addition, there is a great deal of bleeding following childbirth. Some women bleed as few as two weeks while others bleed for two or three months. During this process, pregnancy products are passed, as well as a lot of endometrial lining. That lining needs to be thickened up to support the implantation of another pregnancy. For it to become thicker, your body needs to produce estrogen, which is quite suppressed while breastfeeding. So, in theory a pregnancy that happens too quickly after childbirth may have lesser chances of surviving. Minimally spaced pregnancies are also thought to be more likely to produce symptoms of baby blues afterward, per the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology.
Of course, there is more to consider when planning a pregnancy than just physical health and fertility cycles. A stable financial environment, a home with plenty of room for another person, childcare, health insurance coverage and more are important things to think about before getting pregnant again. The decision to have a child is always a very personal one, and the issues highlighted here represent only some of the reasons to either jump ahead with conception or to hold off a while longer. The choice is ultimately up to the parents, but at least it can be an informed one.