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I’m 28 and just had my first child 8 months ago. I am still breastfeeding my daughter. We were trying for about a year before becoming pregnant. We want to have another child, but aren’t sure when we should start trying again, especially if it takes another year. Is it easier to get pregnant again once you’ve had a child already?

Written by our medical expert Dr. Beth Taylor, co-founder and co-director of Olive Fertility Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia.  

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter!

When women breastfeed their body produces a hormone called prolactin. This hormone can prevent ovulation and thereby keep your periods away. The more you breastfeed the higher your prolactin levels and the less you breastfeed the lower your prolactin levels. Now that your daughter is 8 months she will breastfeed less and less, instead getting her calories from solid food.  Eventually your prolactin levels will be low enough that your body will start ovulating and you will then be potentially able to conceive.  This can take up to a year, or even a few months more to happen.

Once your periods return start trying to conceive right away, if possible. Most couples at your age (85%) will conceive in the first year of trying.  As it took you about a year, it’s possible you have a mild problem affecting your fertility. If after another year of trying you still have not conceived then see your doctor to have your fertility assessed.  If your periods do not come back within 14 months of your daughter’s birth also see your doctor to make sure there isn’t a cause, besides breastfeeding, for your lack of a period.

You are not necessarily more fertile after having a child.  On one hand, having had a child means you can get pregnant: the sperm is strong enough to fertilize an egg, at least one of your fallopian tubes is open and you ovulated at least once!  On the other hand you and your partner are now older and some birth complications (e.g. infection after the birth of your daughter) can reduce your fertility.  However, you’ll never know until you try.

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