Another baby? Errr, not yet! But even though your newborn is still tiny, it’s worth thinking about post-birth sex and fertility
In the first few months after having a baby, your life may be a fog of sleepless nights and endless piles of unwashed babygros, and sex may be pretty low down on your to-do list (if it’s on there at all).
But there are certain situations where you can get pregnant. And if you don’t want to face the prospect of two children under one – trust us, it can happen – make sure you’re clued up on post-birth fertility and contraception.
How soon is too soon?
Traditionally, women are advised to wait until their six-week check before having sex. ‘Usually by this time, post-birth bleeding and discharge has almost settled and bruising and stitches have healed,’ says GP Dr Sarah Brewer, author of Planning A Baby?: How to Prepare for a Healthy Pregnancy and Give Your Baby the Best Possible Start (Random House, £8.99). ‘In reality, most women tentatively try as soon as they feel ready, so contraception needs to be high on your list of priorities.’
Research shows that women who are not breastfeeding can ovulate as early as 28 days after delivery. In fact, the first six to nine months after delivery are peak times for accidental pregnancy, so you need to decide well in advance what type of contraception you want to use after your baby is born.
Can you still get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding?
It’s a question that many mums still don’t know the answer too, mainly because there are so many myths surrounding it.
The simple answer is yes, you can get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, but the chances are much lower. ‘Hormone changes triggered by breast-feeding help to suppress ovulation,’ says Sarah. Worryingly, some women even choose to use breastfeeding as their only contraceptive method.
‘It’s known as the lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM) and it’s 98% effective so long as your baby is less than six months old, you have not experienced any vaginal bleeding since the birth, and you are breastfeeding your baby exclusively or almost exclusively,’ says Sarah. ‘If you wish to rely on LAM, it’s important to be properly instructed in the method to prevent accidental pregnancies, so talk to your GP.’ DISCLAIMER: We wouldn’t recommend this as a foolproof method of contraception!
What other contraceptives are there for new mums?
Condoms are a popular choice for new parents. ‘However, if you’ve been suffering from post-birth vaginal dryness and decide to use a lubricant, make sure you only use a water-based lubricant as petroleum jelly and mineral oils such as baby oil weaken latex rubber and may even dissolve it,’ says Sarah.
If you are breast-feeding, you can still use the mini-pill after having a baby. ‘The mini-pill contains just one hormone, a synthetic progestogen, which does enter breastmilk in small amounts, but this is not thought to be harmful,’ says Sarah. The progestogen-only pill can be started three weeks after childbirth – there is an increased risk of breakthrough bleeding if it is started earlier. And it shouldn’t affect breastfeeding if it’s already well-established.
If you’re not breast-feeding, you can use the combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains two hormones – a synthetic progestogen and oestrogen. ‘This works in a similar way to the progestogen-only pill but is more effective as it also blocks ovulation,’ says Sarah. You will need to wait until three weeks after delivery before starting the combined Pill, as there is an increased risk of blood clots (eg DVT) if it is taken too soon.
If you think you won’t want to have another baby for at least three years, or if your family is complete, you may choose to opt for a longer-term method of contraception such as a intrauterine device (coil), implants or depot injections.
If you’re looking to add to your family, find out ways to help boost your fertility.