- When does fertility return after delivery?
- How soon can you get pregnant after giving birth?
- How long should you wait before getting pregnant again after delivery?
- What are the risks of getting pregnant soon after delivery?
- Contraceptives to decrease the chances of pregnancy after delivery
If you have given birth to a child recently, having another child is perhaps the last thing on your mind. In fact, you’d be eager to get your period back, just to make sure that you are not pregnant too soon.
The common belief is that the chances of getting pregnant soon after delivery are low. But is it true? Not really. A woman can get pregnant as early as a couple of weeks after giving birth to a child, even before her menstrual cycle resumes.
When Does Fertility Return After Delivery?
Whether you deliver vaginally or through a C-section, fertility might return in the initial weeks after delivery. The ovulation period, however, may vary among different women.
The first postpartum menstruation may be without ovulation (which means you may bleed without the egg being released during the phase) or ovulation may happen without a luteal competency (wherein the uterine lining will not be able to support the implantation). However, it is less likely for a woman to ovulate in the initial six weeks after delivery, owing to breastfeeding at the time.
How Soon Can You Get Pregnant After Giving Birth?
You can get pregnant as early as three weeks after delivery, even if you haven’t gotten your period. While you usually get your period five to six weeks after delivery, when you get pregnant may also depend on how frequently you are breastfeeding your newborn (1).
[ Read: Periods After Cesarean Delivery ]
Breastfeeding And Fertility
Breastfeeding is a natural contraceptive. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, then the secretion of the luteinizing hormone that triggers ovulation is suppressed. So frequent breastfeeding can delay the onset of periods for the first six weeks to even six months after delivery (2).
According to a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who are not breastfeeding can get their period on the 74th day postpartum (3).
Most women may experience bleeding or spotting that later decreases, indicating the healing of the uterus. In some women, periods might return after weaning, but may be irregular.
Breastfeeding or not, you need to use contraceptives to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to know how soon you can be on contraceptive pills or injections after delivery. This is required because your body needs to relax before you get pregnant again.
How Long Should You Wait Before Getting Pregnant Again after delivery?
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends couples to wait for at least 18 months to five years to have the next baby (4). However, women over 35 years and those with fertility problems could benefit from a shorter interpregnancy interval (5).
Spacing the pregnancies right allows your uterus to recover sufficiently. Also, it gives the body enough time to replenish the lost nutrients that are needed to support the next pregnancy.
Getting pregnant before the recommended time, especially within six months post delivery, can give rise to complications (6).
What Are The Risks of Getting Pregnant Soon After Delivery?
The risks of getting pregnant too soon after delivery include (4):
- Placental abruption, especially in women attempting for vaginal delivery after a C-section.
- Autism in the baby (when pregnancy spacing is less than 12 months)
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight
- Congenital disorders
If the spacing between the two pregnancies is five years or more, then it can lead to high blood pressure (preeclampsia) in the mother, leading to the damage of the organ system, especially the kidneys.
[ Read: When Is The Best Time To Get Pregnant ]
Contraceptives You Can Use After Pregnancy
Here is a list of contraceptives that can prevent the chances of conception soon after delivery:
1. Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) (2)
Studies prove that breastfeeding is the most effective and natural method of contraception. However, this method can be effective if:
- Your menstruation cycle hasn’t returned
- Your baby is less than six months old
- You are exclusively breastfeeding the baby, without a long gap between each feed.
The failure rate for this method is 0.45% when the conditions are met.
2. Short-Acting contraceptives
If you plan to have another baby within a year after giving birth, then choose short-acting contraceptives such as:
i. Combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP)
This pill, which is a combination of progesterone and estrogen, prevents ovulation. It is considered safe since it has few side effects and also prevents heavy bleeding. A strip contains 21 pills, which should be taken every day as long as you do not want to conceive. Taking these pills every day also means no periods. You can regain your fertility after you stop taking the pills or miss at least eight of them in a row.
This contraceptive can result in irregular menstrual cycles and should not be taken if you (7):
- Are above 35 years of age
- Are overweight
- Have migraines
- Had a heart attack, stroke
- Have a blood clot in the legs or lungs
- Are using any other medications
ii. Progestogen-only pill (POP)
This contraceptive pill contains only progesterone. The POP pill prevents conception by thickening the cervical mucus to stop the sperm from entering the female reproductive tract. Also, it decreases the chances of implantation by thinning the womb lining. If taken properly, this pill can be 99% effective (8).
These pills have to be taken every day, regardless of your sexual activity, and could cause irregular periods.
iii. Contraceptive patch
It comes in the form of a patch and is similar in composition to COCP. This transdermal patch, when applied to the skin, releases synthetic estrogen and progestin hormone into the body. Like contraceptive pills, the patch prevents conception by preventing ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus, and thinning the womb lining.
The contraceptive patch is more convenient than pills and is more than 99% effective when used properly (9).
[ Read: When Do Women Get Pregnant Easily? ]
iv. Barrier methods
Barrier methods could be male or female condoms that prevent the sperm from entering the uterus. They are safe to use and don’t affect fertility either. The only concern is that these contraceptives are not as reliable as the others.
2. Long-acting contraceptives
If you are planning not to have another child until your baby is some two to three years old then, go for these contraceptives.
i. Contraceptive injection
Contraceptive injections are progesterone injections that inhibit ovulation. This is also known as Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate depo shot, which is injected once in every 12 weeks.
If you want to conceive, stop taking the shot at least a few months (usually eight months or one year), as the body needs a long time to come out of the effect of this contraceptive (10).
The injection can result in irregular periods and loss of bone density.
ii. Contraceptive implant
An implant is a small flexible tube that is inserted under the skin on your upper arm and slowly releases progesterone into the body to prevent ovulation. It also thickens the cervical mucus and causes thinning of the womb lining. The implant lasts for three years and is more than 99% effective if properly implanted (11).
The implantation must be done by a doctor, nurse or a trained professional. Getting irregular periods is one of its disadvantages.
iii. IUD (Intrauterine device)
An IUD is a T-shaped device inserted into the uterus to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. If by any chance the sperm meets the egg, then this device will prevent the implantation of the egg on the uterine wall. An IUD can be a copper IUD or a hormonal IUD. This contraceptive method is about 99% effective and can be inserted six weeks after delivery (12). An IUD works for up to ten years
Generally, the IUD comes with a small risk (about 1 %) of infection and also a risk to the uterus (about 1 in 1000 women). Copper IUD can cause heavy bleeding or rarely an allergic reaction, whereas a hormonal IUD can cause irregular or light bleeding.
You may stop using the contraceptives when you are ready for another pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to know the right time. Since the body goes through a lot of stress during delivery, it is important to give it some time to regain its stability and fertility.
[ Read: Tips To Improve Chances Of Pregnancy ]
If you want to have intercourse soon after the arrival of your baby, but without the risk of getting pregnant, use a birth control method that suits you.
Do you have any experience to share? Let us know in the comments section below.
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