Image: Steve Bremer
Statistically, it’s no easier or more difficult to have another baby after giving birth once.
Getting pregnant requires careful timing and a certain amount of luck. In order for conception to occur, a man’s sperm must fertilize a woman’s egg: a feat which is only possible on the same day as ovulation.
As this specific day can be very hard to predict, especially if a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular or completely absent, as is often the case in the first few months after giving birth, getting pregnant after having a baby is certainly not easy.
However, research does suggest that that women are more fertile than average immediately after giving birth, if not using birth control or breastfeeding.
Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Many women believe that they cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding. While it is true that women who are exclusively breastfeeding very young infants have an extremely low probability of getting pregnant, your chances of getting pregnant again return to average after the first six months, when your periods return and your baby begins to feed less often throughout the day.
In other words, you can’t count on breastfeeding as your only method of birth control, and you should use another method if you are trying to prevent pregnancy while breastfeeding your child. If you are trying to give that child a younger sibling, be confident in the fact that many women successfully have another child while still nursing an older infant or toddler.
What about if you're not breastfeeding?
If you give birth and choose not to breastfeed, it’s possible to become pregnant again as soon as three weeks after giving birth. Some women do not immediately begin having regular periods until several months after having a baby, but even if you’re not bleeding regularly, you may still be fertile and should discuss your family planning goals with your doctor.
Pregnancies spaced less than eighteen months apart may result in complications. If you do choose to try for another baby shortly after giving birth, make sure to see your doctor regularly to make sure that you and your baby are healthy and that your pregnancy is developing well.
Some women find it more difficult to get pregnant again after having their first child, a condition known as secondary infertility. Sometimes, this difficulty can be due to the woman’s age, especially if she didn’t have her first baby until after age 30.
Pregnancy changes the body in ways that may make it more difficult for some women to get pregnant a second time. Don’t give up hope, there are plenty of options if you are finding it difficult to conceive a second child.
The importance of a good support network
Remember that pregnancy has a huge impact on the way you feel. The added hormones, stress, and tiredness may be even harder to handle if you are trying to take care of another baby at the same time.
Getting support from your family and friends is more important than ever, for both you and your older children. If someone else is around who can pitch in with making meals or taking older children to school, child care, or sports and other activities, you will be able to take care of yourself a lot more easily.
Your new pregnancy and your older child
Your older child is likely to have a lot of questions as your pregnancy continues, especially if they have been the only child up to this point. Toddlers are fascinated by the process of pregnancy and will be extremely curious to know about their new baby brother or sister. You don’t have to go into all the details, but understand that your child will know that something is happening, and will likely form their own conclusions if you don’t offer any input.
Many toddlers will regress in behavior when their mom is about to have another baby. On some level, most children are concerned that they will no longer get any attention when there is another baby in the house.
It’s important to remind your older child that you still love them and will still have time for them. Make it a point to spend some “mom time” with your older child every day while you are pregnant. It doesn’t have to be a complicated thing, simply reading a book together or going for a walk is enough.
Talk to your child about simple things they can do to be a helper and a great older sibling. Most kids are thrilled to take on the “big kid” label that comes with someone younger that they can help take care of. Like you, your older child will quickly grow to love the new addition to the family, and will show an immense depth of concern and caring for their new sibling.