Are You More Fertile After Having a Baby?
By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN
The short answer is no, you aren’t more fertile after having a baby. However, there are a few ways we can interpret and answer this question, and there are many factors to consider when navigating the family planning process. Even if someone has had a successful pregnancy before, factors such as age, underlying conditions, and birth or pregnancy complications can all influence fertility.  So, to give a comprehensive answer to the question “are you more fertile after having a baby?” we will need to dive a little deeper.
How Do You Know When You’re Fertile After Having a Baby?
Did you know that it can take up to six months (or longer) for someone to begin to ovulate again after giving birth? [2-3] The truth is, getting pregnant too soon after giving birth can actually increase the risk of complications for you and your baby. Many public health organizations, including the Office on Women’s Health, recommend waiting at least 12 months between pregnancies to allow the body to recover. 
The body will naturally stop menstruation/ovulation from occurring for a few months after giving birth. The length of time can vary from person to person and is dependent on how often someone is breastfeeding. [2-3] If you want to check in on your fertility postpartum, keep an eye out for signs of ovulation after giving birth. This could include changes in cervical mucus, a positive ovulation test, increased sex drive, and more.  The return of your menstrual cycle is a more noticeable sign that you may be able to get pregnant again, although there is also a chance that ovulation can occur before your first period, or even a few months after your period returns. [2,3,5] It’s best to use protection if you aren’t actively trying to conceive again.
What is Secondary Infertility?
Secondary infertility refers to the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after already having at least one prior successful pregnancy.  In other words, those who are having difficulty getting pregnant a second, third, or fourth time after they have already had a successful pregnancy may be experiencing secondary infertility. Secondary infertility is thought to be one of the most common forms of female infertility around the world and is estimated to impact about 10% of people. 
Causes of Secondary Infertility
The exact cause of secondary infertility can differ from person to person. In some cases, there may be no obvious cause at all. For people assigned female at birth (AFAB), some common factors that influence fertility include [1,7]:
- Age: Age can have an impact on fertility. For a healthy person AFAB in their 20s or early 30s, the chances of conceiving each month are about 25-30%. However, the chances of conceiving every month start to decline during someone’s early 30s, dropping to less than 10% by the age of 40.
- Underlying conditions: Health conditions can also have a negative effect on fertility, especially if a condition goes untreated for a long period of time. Some health conditions that may interfere with fertility and pregnancy include endocrine disorders, endometriosis, anatomical scarring or blockages, and others.
- Anovulation: Difficulty ovulating (releasing a mature egg) is the most common cause of female infertility.
- Lifestyle factors: whether or not someone lives a healthy lifestyle, including eating a nutritious diet, using drugs or alcohol, and exercising regularly, can all have an impact on their chances of conceiving.
Other factors that can influence fertility include weight, caffeine intake, knowledge of the fertile window and timed intercourse, exposure to toxins, and others. If you’re having difficulty conceiving, you should speak with a healthcare provider.
How to Increase Your Fertility Postpartum
If you are hoping to conceive again soon and want to support your fertility, there are some things you can do. First, it’s important to check in with your healthcare provider about your family planning goals. Your provider can give you a better idea of your chances of conceiving, as well as highlight any areas of concern given your personal medical history. Other ways to support your fertility postpartum include eating a balanced diet, taking a postnatal or prenatal vitamin for women, exercising regularly, and testing your hormone levels with a women’s fertility test. 
So, Are You More Fertile After Having a Baby?
Some research shows that a prior successful pregnancy and birth gives someone an increased chance of conceiving, but this does not mean that fertility has been improved as a result of a previous pregnancy.  Really, this data is deducing that because someone’s body was able to sustain a pregnancy once before, they should in theory have the ability to do so again. What this research does not take into account is someone’s age, male fertility, any medical conditions or events that may have occurred after their prior pregnancy, and many other factors. [1,6,7] After all, secondary infertility is fairly common, which goes to show that one, or even multiple, prior pregnancies do not guarantee someone will be able to conceive again, nor does it mean someone is more fertile. Discover signs of high fertility →
Natalist's Role In Your Fertility Journey
The postpartum period is a time of change, healing, bonding, and learning more about yourself and your little one. Natalist is proudly led by a team of moms, doctors, and parents who understand the ups and downs of fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum life. If you are breastfeeding or recently postpartum and are interested in fertility or nutritional support, you should speak to a healthcare provider about taking a prenatal or postnatal vitamin. Experiencing dry or cracked nipples? We’ve got you covered with breastfeeding-safe Nip & Lip Balm. Shop more Natalist products here.
- Evaluating Infertility. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ 136. August 2022. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/evaluating-infertility
- Eleje GU, Ugwu EO, Dinwoke VO, et al. Predictors of puerperal menstruation. PLoS One. 2020;15(7):e0235888. Published 2020 Jul 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0235888
- Postpartum Birth Control. ACOG. Last updated April 2023. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/postpartum-birth-control
- Getting pregnant again. Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Updated February 2021. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-and-beyond/getting-pregnant-again
- Owen M. Physiological signs of ovulation and fertility readily observable by women. Linacre Q. 2013;80(1):17-23. doi:10.1179/0024363912Z.0000000005
- Sormunen T, Aanesen A, Fossum B, Karlgren K, Westerbotn M. Infertility-related communication and coping strategies among women affected by primary or secondary infertility. J Clin Nurs. 2018;27(1-2):e335-e344. doi:10.1111/jocn.13953
- What are some possible causes of female infertility? National Institues of Health. Office of Communications. January 31 2017. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/causes/causes-female. Accessed January 2024.
- Taylor A. ABC of subfertility: extent of the problem. BMJ. 2003;327(7412):434-436. doi:10.1136/bmj.327.7412.434
Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, health equity, and mentoring. She is the CEO of The EpiCentre, an OBGYN spa-like practice, and is a Clinical faculty member of Charleston Southern University. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women