The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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When my daughter was three months old, I unexpectedly got pregnant again. Soon I was experiencing first hand the physical and psychological challenges typical of back-to-back pregnancies—unrelenting fatigue and back pain, fear of dealing with two babies at once and uncertainties about breastfeeding and pregnancy weight gain. Close spacing of your babies shouldn’t harm your second child, but it can feel daunting to be pregnant within a year or so of having given birth. Here’s some important pre- and postnatal information for your health and peace of mind:
Breastfeeding is not a contraceptive. If you don’t want a quick second pregnancy, be sure to use birth control as soon as your doctor gives you the OK to resume having intercourse. (If you’re breastfeeding, use barrier methods, an IUD or condom—not the Pill.) Breastfeeding may suppress menstruation, but conception before your first postdelivery period is still possible. Jody Moss, a Los Angeles mother of three who reconceived 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.” If you rely on a diaphragm, it should be refitted at your five- or six-week postpartum checkup (you might have gotten larger after giving birth).
Get prenatal care as soon as possible.
Fortunately, Moss received immediate prenatal care for her second child, but since the signs of a rapid repeat pregnancy can be hard to read (you’re still carrying extra weight and not menstruating), that isn’t always the case. Pay attention to nausea (it could be morning sickness) as well as more subtle signs (Moss noted that her hair was thinning, as it had during her first pregnancy), and if you think you could be pregnant, immediately see your caregiver.
You may decide to wean your first baby while carrying the next. New York mom Tracy Calvan did: “I lost weight and felt tired because I was nursing while pregnant, so I slowly weaned my son,” she says. The authors of What To Expect When You’re Expecting (Workman Publishing, 1991), Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway, B.S.N., suggest that “trying to rally the nutritional forces for both nursing and pregnancy can be a losing battle for all concerned.”
Other women are quite comfortable nursing while pregnant; doing so does not necessarily increase your fatigue, adversely affect your preg-nancy nor leave your in utero baby malnourished, insists Kathleen Huggins, R.N., M.S., and Linda Ziedrich in The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning (The Harvard Common Press, 1994). Discuss the decision with your physician and, if you do continue nursing, be sure to drink plenty of liquids.