Getting Pregnant. Again.

A young woman has a surprised look on her face while holding a home pregnancy test.You’ve gotten into the swing of this motherhood thing, and you have the all-clear from your health care provider to resume intimacy with your partner. Right now, getting pregnant again is probably the furthest thing from your mind—but, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen! Understanding the factors that impact fertility soon after giving birth, as well as the risks associated with back-to-back pregnancies, is critical right now. Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

Can I even get pregnant this soon?

The short answer is a resounding “YES!” Even though breastfeeding can slow down your return to fertility, it’s certainly not a guarantee. Even if you haven’t gotten your period since giving birth, that doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant—remember, you have to go through one fertility cycle before your period arrives.

What are the risks?

Getting pregnant again less than six months after giving birth poses the highest risks, for both mother and baby. Tops on the list are risks of the baby being born prematurely and/or having a low birth weight. Research also suggests an increased risk of autism and congenital disorders in the baby, as well as placental abruption — a serious complication that results when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall.

Why is it risky?

We don’t know for sure, but one theory is that when pregnancies are close together, the mom doesn’t have enough time to replenish her blood supply and restock all the nutrients that were depleted during the first pregnancy. Iron and folate, in particular, are very important to baby’s growth and development. The mother might also need more time to heal from the trauma of giving birth, especially if the baby was born via C-section.

When is it okay to get pregnant again?

The typical advice says that women should plan for about 12 to 18 months between pregnancies, but you should ask your health care provider what’s best for you and your family. Outside factors can always change the game plan: A woman who waits until later in life might want to try to have multiple children before her fertility window closes, or a military family might want to try to get pregnant again before dad is deployed.

If your ideal family planning doesn’t mesh with what the experts suggest, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your plans. Talk honestly with your health care team, and keep in mind that risk is involved in every pregnancy, but it’s a small risk. And, even the increased risk associated with closely spaced pregnancies doesn’t necessarily mean that you or your baby will have any problems at all.