Gestating and delivering a baby takes a major toll on the body, so it’s to be your healthiest self before getting pregnant. Part of being your healthiest self before pregnancy is having had plenty of time to recover from a previous pregnancy—this time between pregnancies is known as a pregnancy interval. Getting pregnant within 18 months of giving birth is considered a short pregnancy interval, and is linked with negative outcomes for both moms and babies.
Why is birth spacing important?
Women who get pregnant within 18 months of a previous delivery are at an elevated risk for different negative outcomes. This includes a greater risk of uterine rupture, though observational studies suggest a “modest increase of adverse outcomes associated with intervals of less than 18 months,” according to ACOG, but an even greater risk among those who get pregnant within 6 months of delivery.
In fact, even within the 6-18 month window, evidence suggests that the longer the interval, the better for both mom and baby.
Preventing short interpregnancy interval
Because of the risks of a short interpregnancy interval, healthcare providers usually recommend using a contraceptive method in the months after delivery. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding (and not taking any long breaks, including at night), it might take between 9 and 18 months for your cycle to return. This means you can’t conceive again until that point.
If you are breastfeeding, your cycle is more likely to return if you are taking breaks, or once your child is 6 months old. If you aren’t breastfeeding, it’s possible that your cycle returns (and you can conceive) as soon as 5 or 6 weeks postpartum.
Even if you are exclusively breastfeeding, it’s likely that you’ll ovulate before you menstruate when your cycle returns. This means that you could conceive, even if your period hasn’t returned, which makes starting a reliable birth control method before your first period so important.
It may seem early, but it makes sense to start thinking about birth control even now, while you’re still pregnant. You should speak with your healthcare provider about postpartum contraception if you haven’t already.
- Gemmill, Alison, and Laura Duberstein Lindberg. “Short Interpregnancy Intervals in the United States.” Obstetrics and Gynecology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749871/.
- Obstetric Care Consensus Number 8. “Interpregnancy Care.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, January 2019. Web. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/obstetric-care-consensus/articles/2019/01/interpregnancy-care