You’ve done this at least once before, so you probably know a bit about the science of getting pregnant. Sperm, meet egg. But let’s do a quick refresher just for fun.
How do I get pregnant?
To conceive, you need sperm to find an egg. This happens by having sex during your fertile window, which is generally the five days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation. Ovulation is the process of a mature egg being released from the ovary, when it’s dropped into the fallopian tube and meets the sperm. Got it?
Sperm can live inside you for about five days, so sex on one of the first days of your fertile window could lead to conception. After ovulation, the egg you release will be viable for 12 to 24 hours, so it’s possible that you could also get pregnant the day after you ovulate. These facts remain true even if you’ve very recently had a baby, so it’s possible that you can conceive the first time you ovulate after giving birth if you have sex during that fertile window.
When can I get pregnant?
The first ovulation and fertile window is different for everyone. Your cycle could start again anywhere from a month to a year after giving birth. According to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, most women don’t start ovulating until at least six weeks postpartum, but some do start earlier.
If you’re breastfeeding, it will probably take longer for you to start ovulating again because continuous breastfeeding can prevent your body from releasing luteinizing hormone, which is necessary for ovulation. However, it’s not impossible for ovulation to occur before you see your first period, so it’s important to use protection once you resume sexual activity in order to prevent another pregnancy from occurring too soon.
When can I start having sex?
After you give birth, it’s recommended that you wait to have sex until your healthcare provider clears you for it. For both vaginal or C-section deliveries, your body needs to heal before you’re ready to have sex again. Many healthcare providers recommend waiting at least four to six weeks after delivery, allowing time for postpartum bleeding to stop, tears to heal, and the cervix to close.
If you don’t feel like having sex right now, that’s absolutely fine. Right now you might be facing tiredness, stress, or even some discomfort with how your body feels or looks right now. However you feel about sex right now is absolutely normal and okay, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to start having sex right away. When you do start having sex again, your healthcare provider may recommend that you use birth control. Breastfeeding isn’t a totally reliable form of birth control, so you should consider using another method if you don’t want to get pregnant. If you do want to get pregnant again quickly, your healthcare provider might suggest that you wait 18 to 24 months so your body can heal from all it’s hard work during your last pregnancy and delivery.
Why should I wait to get pregnant?
Getting pregnant again quickly after giving birth does have some risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, limited research suggests that a pregnancy within 12 to 18 months of giving birth is associated with an increased risk of placental abruption, placenta previa, autism, low birth weight, small size, and preterm birth. Having a baby again so quickly could also leave your body with little time to fully recover from the other pregnancy, potentially causing complications with your health or the baby’s.
There are many different facets of family planning and deciding when to get pregnant, and your healthcare provider will be able to offer your guidance around this important part of your life. Don’t hesitate to ask them any questions about contraception, sex, and additional pregnancies.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sex after pregnancy.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. July 2, 2015. Web.
- Jackson, Emily. “Return of Ovulation and Menses in Postpartum Nonlactating Women: A Systematic Review.” Obstetrics & Gynecology. March 2011. Volume 117. Issue 3. Pp. 657-662.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Labor and delivery, postpartum care.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. July 2, 2015. Web.
- “Breast-feeding alters LH secretion pattern.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Family planning: Get the facts about pregnancy spacing.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. April 15, 2014. Web.