If you’ve ever attended a parents’ group, or logged onto a parenting forum, there’s a really good chance you’ve heard some variation on the following: “how can I be pregnant?! I’m still breastfeeding!”
Another pregnancy when you’re still getting to know your new baby might sound pretty daunting, so why are so many people adamant that it cannot happen, and how soon after birth can you get pregnant?
Not only is it entirely possible, but it’s not at all unusual. There’s a lot of other conflicting information flying around too! Do you know why some claim breastfeeding prevents pregnancy, or why others say you might be super fertile once you have a baby? Let’s clear up some of that confusion. There’s a lot you need to know about conception and contraception after childbirth.
Can I get pregnant before my period returns?
The absence of your period (amenorrhea) doesn’t mean you aren’t fertile. Every case is different but most women will not start to ovulate again for at least 6 weeks after delivering a baby. However, some women will ovulate again as soon as 3 weeks after. If your period is back then you’ve already ovulated. So yes, you can get pregnant before your period returns. If you do get pregnant, not knowing when you’ve ovulated can make it difficult to establish a timeline of how far along you might be.
When using natural contraception or family planning methods, pay attention to your body’s signals, including your cervical mucus, temperature and any symptoms you usually experience throughout your menstrual cycle. Especially when starting fresh after a pregnancy, your cycle can be unpredictable. You might not even recognise the signs of ovulation after giving birth.
Does breastfeeding prevent pregnancy?
Yes…and no. Breastfeeding can be around 98% effective at preventing pregnancy when using the lactational amenorrhea method. Once the baby reaches 6 months old, or you start to feed the baby with other foods, then breastfeeding alone is not sufficient contraception and it’s likely you will soon start to ovulate again.
The reason it works for some is down to hormones. Prolactin is a hormone that causes your body to produce milk, and it can also suppress other hormones – particularly oestrogen! Oestrogen plays an important role both in triggering and suppressing ovulation, depending on how much is produced at different times during your cycle. That’s not all though; oxytocin, which is released when breastfeeding, also suppresses those hormones. Known as “the love hormone”, oxytocin helps you to feel calm and bonded to your baby during feeds. Unfortunately, this means that pumping breast milk will not prevent pregnancy as effectively.
Are you extra fertile after having a baby?
Amy, 28, says that following the birth of her son, she was told by a midwife to speak to her GP about contraception right away: “she told me that I could be extra fertile, which I’ve never, ever heard before. I thought you can’t get pregnant immediately after having a baby.”
After you give birth, your body is not automatically more or less fertile than before. Your next attempt to conceive may differ from the first, but not because of magical super fertility. It’s still a good idea to discuss contraception with your GP as getting pregnant immediately after giving birth might not be ideal for you, and your usual method of contraception may not be either. If you are breastfeeding, Hana is a progestogen-only pill can be used while breastfeeding.
How long should I wait to get pregnant again after having a baby?
After you’ve given birth, you might not immediately feel ready to have regular penetrative sex. Some report feeling pain during penetrative sex up to a few months after giving birth. Clear communication with your partner about how you are feeling is so important during this time, and if you or your partner have any concerns about any pain or discomfort you’re feeling, you could try speaking to your GP.
It could also help to speak to your GP if you feel ready to try for another pregnancy, particularly if it’s been under a year. It’s even more important to consult your GP about how soon you can get pregnant after a c-section (if you had one). You will likely be advised to wait 12-18 months to ensure that your scar has healed enough. This is to reduce the risk of uterine rupture, which is a tear in the wall of the uterus and is dangerous for both you and your baby.
How long should I wait to get pregnant following pregnancy loss?
Following pregnancy loss, you should wait until any symptoms have subsided and your period has returned. If the loss occurred due to illness or injury, you will also want to be fully recovered before attempting to conceive again. Once your miscarriage symptoms have subsided, there’s a good chance that your cycle will return to normal and you can try again straight away. Speak to your GP to be sure that you have all the information you need about your specific circumstances, particularly if you have been ill or injured.
However, you also need to think about your emotional and mental health. Pregnancy loss can be absolutely devastating. It affects as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies but we don’t really talk a lot about it. Allow yourself time to grieve, surround yourself with loved ones who can give you the support you need, and maybe even consider some counselling or therapy. Being truly ready to conceive again includes being mentally ready.
If you’re concerned about contraception following pregnancy, why not have a look at some of the other resources available on our blog? This piece on taking the pill as a new parent might help you decide what’s best for you in terms of contraception.
Hana is a progestogen-only pill and is suitable to use while breastfeeding. You can start taking it within the first 21 days after giving birth, though if starting after 21 days it is recommended that you use a barrier method of contraception for the first 7 days. Find out if Hana is right for you by completing the checklist online, or speaking to your pharmacist.
Hana® 75µg film-coated tablets contain desogestrel and is an oral contraception for women of child bearing age to prevent pregnancy. Always read the instructions on the package leaflet carefully.