A woman who has just given birth may have many questions, particularly about getting pregnant again. Whether she is trying to avoid having another baby too soon or is trying to expand her family ASAP, "am I more fertile postpartum" is a question that may be on her mind. It's an important one to ask too, as the answer may affect your future family planning.
In order to get some answers, Romper spoke with Dr. Alan B. Copperman, the Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He says that fertility should return to a level similar to what it was prior to conception, which women should keep in mind if they are not planning to have another baby right away.
"Fertility can resume as early as one month after giving birth, so if a future pregnancy is not your plan, contraception is necessary," Copperman says. He also warns, however, that a woman who is hoping to get pregnant again eventually should consider her age. He says:
"The majority of the literature suggests that having a baby doesn’t necessarily increase the chance of future pregnancies. In fact, for a woman in her late thirties and early forties, delays in trying may actually result in lower fertility."
Another thing to keep in mind after giving birth is that breastfeeding may temporarily decrease the chance of conceiving, according to Copperman. That said, it is still possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding can cause a temporary suppression of ovulation due to the release of a hormone called prolactin which inhibits secretion of other hormones necessary for ovulation and fertility," Copperman explains. "The degree to which breastfeeding inhibits ovulation is dependent on the amount and duration of breastfeeding and the nutrition status and BMI of the mother."
Angela Le, a leading integrative reproductive health expert, acupuncturist, and founder of Fifth Avenue Fertility Wellness in New York City, echoes that sentiment in a conversation with Romper. As she explains:
"A woman's fertility is temporarily affected after giving birth if she decides to breastfeed. Breastfeeding alters hormonal levels and helps to prevent ovulation after giving birth. Since ovulation is required in order to get pregnant, there is a temporary period that is individual to every woman where she will most likely not conceive."
Women should not consider breastfeeding a contraceptive, however, since "the effect on fertility highly vary according to the individual," Le says. For any woman who is looking to get pregnant after baby, Copperman recommends that she "maintain a healthy lifestyle by optimizing their weight, eating well, no smoking, and taking good care of themselves." Le says that women should make sure that they are physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to go through another pregnancy.
"It is essential to pause and make sure you feel healthy, nourished, and connected to both to yourself and your partner before taking on the responsibility of a new pregnancy while also being a parent," she says.
If you've recently given birth and are planning for baby number two, it's important to keep in mind what is actually going on with your fertility during this postpartum time. Whether you are breastfeeding or not, being prepared for the next little one is important. Don't let your postpartum fertility surprise you and stay informed about your own body.