Okay, many people love the idea of having a baby and then another as soon as possible. The image of lots of little kids running around close in age (aka Irish twins) is sweet, but there are serious risks to getting pregnant before your body has had a chance to really recover from creating a baby. Give yourself time to heal before getting knocked up again.
1. You may have had trouble getting pregnant the first time, but after having a baby, the next time you try to get pregnant could be different. Here’s the basic truth, if you don’t want to get pregnant right away, USE PROTECTION to prevent another pregnancy.
Something about having a baby can make a woman’s body click. It’s like your reproductive system says, “Oh, I get it now!” You can easily get pregnant again (like even before your 6 week postpartum appointment with your doctor) and it’s actually dangerous for you and the baby to get pregnant so quickly (scary stuff like the placenta peeling away from your uterus or attaching to the wrong part of your uterus).
2. Give your body at least 12 months (ideally 18 months) to heal from having a baby because getting pregnant too soon has serious health risks.
You may have heard of birth spacing. This is the amount of time between having your last baby and getting pregnant again. From the Mayo Clinic: “closely spaced pregnancies don’t give a mother enough time to recover from the physical stress of one pregnancy before moving on to the next.” What does this mean? There is an increased risk of miscarriage and delivering prematurely. This especially rings true if you have delivered prematurely before (before 37 weeks gestation). Give yourself time to heal before gearing up for the next new baby adventure!
With this said, I know there is a balance between infertility and waiting. Depending on your personal situation, your doctor may advise you to start trying ASAP (like if you are of advanced maternal age which is considered 35 and older). Talk openly with your doctor about the risks and benefits of starting your journey sooner rather than later.
3. Breastfeeding does not protect you from pregnancy (even exclusively breastfeeding).
You may think you’re OK because you are breastfeeding around the clock and you don’t have your period. Let me slap some knowledge on ya, even if you don’t get a monthly period, you are still ovulating the whole time you are breastfeeding. This is why hospitals ask you about contraception before you discharge and your OB asks again at your 6 week follow-up! Even without your period, you can get pregnant (as early as 6 weeks after delivery) and you will not really know when it happened because you don’t have your monthly visit from Aunt Flo to give you a clue on timing. It’s worth saying again, even if you had trouble getting pregnant before, breastfeeding isn’t going to prevent pregnancy.
4. Postpartum Depression (PPD) is real thing and has a lifelong impact you baby’s growth and development.
I cannot stress enough, if you feel something is wrong, ASK FOR HELP. Even while you’re pregnant, tell your husband what he should look for and how to address the situation if he thinks you’re experiencing PPD (the partner is often the first to notice something is amiss, but they are too afraid to speak up for fear of pushing the mom over the edge). There is an incredibly way to test yourself for PPD, but most importantly this is not just for your sake, but the sake of your baby. There are serious effects on your kid including behavior problems, cognitive delays and physical health problems. This goes from infancy to adolescence. Don’t slog through the fog by yourself. Help is available, talk to your partner and health care provider.
5. Speaking of breastfeeding, the first 10 days of breastfeeding are the hardest, stick it out and it will be MUCH easier.
While in the hospital you are recovering and you have lots of medical folks at your call to ask feeding questions to. Your milk hasn’t come in. Also, food comes to you on a tray, you don’t have to worry about dishes or how clean the room is, and it looks like things are going OK. Fast forward to days 4-7 postpartum and chances are you are at home with a screaming baby and boobs painfully tight (hooray, your milk has come in!), but your nipples are sore, cracked and bleeding. So you know you need to nurse, but it hurts like hell (the issue is the latch) but in reality, the sh*t has hit the fan. You are sleep-deprived, you’re not sure how to help your baby, and you’re in physical pain from delivery and nursing. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. You are a warrior! Seek help and support from friends, family and breastfeeding professionals. Find a lactation counselor or consultant, find a breastfeeding support group (most hospitals who deliver babies have a group or can recommend one) and get the tips and tricks from nursing moms who have been there, done that, and can share with you. This is the hardest part, but nursing definitely gets easier.