Short Answer: It varies greatly, but it can be possible to ovulate just 3 weeks after giving birth.
After giving birth, the thought of getting pregnant again might fill you with a sense of dread. On the other hand, some women can’t wait to start planning for another. Contrary to some myths that you can’t get pregnant until your body is “ready”, the only thing that controls when you can get pregnant again is how long it takes for you to start ovulating again.
Ovulation is the process in which an egg is released from an ovary. The egg then travels through the fallopian tube, where it awaits fertilisation. It’s impossible to get pregnant if you are not ovulating. Every case is different but most women will not start to ovulate again for at least 6 weeks after delivering a baby. With that said, it does happen that women will ovulate again as soon as 3 weeks after. So if you are not planning a pregnancy, it’s a good idea to always use contraception.
There are also some factors that may extend how long it takes for you to start ovulating again. Primarily, breastfeeding will have significant affects on your hormones. If you exclusively breastfeed (only give your baby breast milk), then you’re extremely unlikely to start ovulating again. As a result, some people even use breastfeeding as a form of natural contraception. Once the baby reaches 6 months old, or you start to feed the baby with other foods, then breastfeeding alone is not sufficient contraception and it’s likely you will soon start to ovulate again.
It’s important to also consider how long you want to wait before trying again. Many women look to get pregnant as soon as possible, but it can have adverse effects for both mother and child. The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests waiting 24 months, allowing your body to completely recover. This is often impractical however and many other sources suggest that waiting 12 months is enough.
So, what should we take from all this? Well, in reality every person is different. If you’re not planning another pregnancy, use contraception just to be safe. If you are planning on trying again, don’t rush it. Give your body some time to recover. For some, this may only be a week or two, but others may not feel ready for 12-18 months. If you’re having other concerns, or simply want some help planning your next pregnancy, then speak with your doctor. They will be able to offer practical advice, specifically designed for your case.