Surviving a Second Pregnancy That’s Right After Your First
One pregnancy is challenging enough—what if another follows hot on its heels? Experts share tips for having healthy and happy back-to-back pregnancies.
Having a baby changes everything, as the saying goes. But what happens when you see those two pink lines again almost immediately after giving birth? Finding out you’ll be having two children back-to-back can be a shock to anyone, but there are some wonderful things about the situation, too. Here, you’ll get familiar with all the pros and cons of closely spaced kiddos, and figure out how to survive that second pregnancy when you’re already caring for a baby.
Is It Bad to Get Pregnant Right After Giving Birth?
Experts recommend waiting 18 months after birth before getting pregnant again, according to March of Dimes. An earlier conception could increase the risk of complications, including premature birth and low birthweight.
Your body needs the time to recover between pregnancies if possible, adds Erin Stevens, M.D., an OB-GYN with Clinic Sofia. “The pregnant person’s body needs a chance to recover from the pregnancy itself, normalize weight, optimize nutrition, and potentially resolve pregnancy-related medical conditions, and there is evidence of increased maternal mortality and morbidity with these very closely spaced pregnancies as well,” she says.
And if you delivered your baby via C-section, the risks of getting pregnant again right away are even greater. “The overall healing is particularly important for those who have had a C-section,” says Dr. Stevens. “Births that occur 18 months or less apart have a higher risk of uterine rupture, an emergency situation in which the scar on the uterus opens prior to delivery.”
That said, while having back-to-back pregnancies isn’t usually recommended, it’s not always a bad thing. Parents should just take extra precautions to ensure a healthy pregnancy, which we outlined below.
How to Survive Back-to-Back Pregnancies
Of course, it’s not all bad news if you happen to get pregnant again soon after delivering a baby. Sure, raising two small children at once can be challenging, but there are many wonderful things about having siblings close in age (think of all that baby gear you can reuse!) And when it comes to entertaining your little ones, they’re much more likely to have similar interests and play together if they’re close in age.
That said, if you’re expecting again within a year of delivering a baby, here’s what you’ll need to do to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Get prenatal care as soon as possible.
Because the signs of a rapid repeat pregnancy can be hard to read (you’re still carrying extra weight and possibly not menstruating), it might be difficult to get early prenatal care. Pay attention to nausea (it could be morning sickness) as well as more subtle signs. For example, Jody Moss, a Los Angeles mother of three who re-conceived six weeks after her first delivery, noted that her hair was thinning, as it had during her first pregnancy. If you think you could be pregnant, immediately see your caregiver.
Decide what to do about breastfeeding.
You may decide to wean your first baby while carrying the next. Or you may not, and that’s fine, too! It’s totally possible to breastfeed throughout a subsequent pregnancy, says Dr. Stevens. “In a normal pregnancy, research suggests that nursing throughout is safe and does not increase risks for the pregnant person, the pregnancy, or the existing child. However, you may notice a drop in your milk supply due to hormonal changes expected in pregnancy. It can also become more uncomfortable and difficult to continue breastfeeding due to pregnancy symptoms like breast tenderness, fatigue, and nausea.”
Discuss the decision with your physician and, if you do continue nursing, be sure to drink plenty of liquids.
Don’t be afraid to gain weight.
You’ll still want to gain weight during the second pregnancy, although perhaps a bit less than the usual recommendation. “If you’re 20% or more over your ideal body mass, you already have the necessary fat stores,” says John Botti, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of maternal-fetal medicine at Pennsylvania State University’s Hershey Medical Center in Hershey. “Discuss it with your physician, but you can probably gain somewhat less than the usual number of pounds.”
Watch your diet.
A short interval between pregnancies means your body may be at a nutritional disadvantage, so you’ll need to be vigilant about eating properly. “Certain nutrients such as calcium and iron must be replenished after delivery, and that takes about six months,” Dr. Botti explains. “In a short-order pregnancy, those mineral levels may be less than ideal.” He suggests eating a diet rich in calcium and iron (pregnant people require about 1000 mg calcium, 27 mg iron, and 600 mg folic acid daily throughout pregnancy, says Dr. Stevens).) Consult with your caregiver about other nutritional supplements you might need.
Expect to feel extra exhausted.
Because the second pregnancy progresses in a different environment—there’s now a demanding newcomer to consider—you have to carve out adequate rest time. At the least, consider sleeping whenever your older baby does. If possible, arrange child care or household aid throughout the pregnancy. Also, don’t be shy about asking your partner, family, and friends for their assistance.
Don’t stop exercising.
Exercise is always recommended during pregnancy, as long as you listen to your body and don’t work too hard. “Good exercises are the ones that the pregnant person will do! Exercise is great for the pregnant person’s health and reduces the risk of some medical conditions in pregnancy. There’s also good evidence it reduces the duration of labor,” says Dr. Stevens.
Whether you choose prenatal yoga, walking, or something in between, make sure to stay hydrated and don’t set overly demanding goals. Do what feels right, and consult your physician before embarking on any new or different forms of exercise. Also, focus on your health and not your figure. “If you didn’t lose weight between pregnancies,” says Dr. Botti, “don’t try to work it off now.”
Be careful how you carry your baby.
Carrying a non-walking baby while pregnant can cause painful muscle spasms in your neck, lower-back problems, and other discomfort. Exercises that reestablish abdominal wall tone should help relieve back stress. Other strategies: Enlist child care help, eliminate unnecessary lifting, and always lift with proper form (making sure to bend at the knees).
Keep those illnesses away.
Since you’re already physically worn down, try to avoid any person or situation that could make you more likely to come down with a virus. Many pregnant people find that back-to-back pregnancies deplete their immune system, making them more susceptible to colds, flu, and other illnesses. Eating healthfully and getting a lot of rest is your best preventive strategy. Also, make sure you’re up-to-date on vaccines. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends getting both a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, if you haven’t already.
Take it easy.
“A close second pregnancy wreaks havoc on your body—but taking breaks will help you to cope,” says Moss. Above all, don’t try to be perfect. Remember that first-pregnancy lesson: Every challenging phase passes.
How to Avoid Getting Pregnant Again in the Postpartum Period
If you don’t want a quick second pregnancy, use birth control when your doctor gives you the green light to resume intercourse. “We generally recommend waiting six weeks before resuming sexual activity after birth. Whether the birth was vaginal or C-section, healing is required!” says Dr. Stevens.
When it comes to birth control pills, “we recommend avoiding estrogen-containing contraceptives right away after birth due to an increase in the risk of blood clots and because they may impact milk supply,” says Dr. Stevens. If you rely on a diaphragm for contraception, it should be refitted at your five- or six-week postpartum checkup (you might have gotten larger after giving birth). You might also decide to use an IUD, condoms, implant, or another form of contraception. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Breastfeeding may delay the return of your menstrual cycle due to the production of the hormone prolactin, which naturally suppresses ovulation. But conception before your first post-delivery period is still possible. Moss, the mother who re-conceived six weeks after her first delivery, says, “My postpartum checkup after my son was born was the prenatal check for my daughter! I never had a period between them.”