Health

down arrow icon

+After having your baby

When will my period return after the baby is born?

Your period may start again 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth if you're not breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, your period may not start again for months. Some women don't have a period again until they stop breastfeeding.

I just had a baby. How soon can I get pregnant again?

Most experts recommend that, after the birth of a child, you should wait at least 18 to 23 months before getting pregnant again. This applies both in the case of a vaginal or cesarean birth. Waiting 18 to 23 months gives your body the time it needs to fully recover from the last pregnancy. It also helps prevent health risks during your next pregnancy, like premature birth or having a low-birthweight baby. Spacing pregnancies too close together also has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Frequent pregnancies can have an impact on the mother's health.

Sometimes it's not possible to wait so long, either because of your age or other reasons. The best thing to do is to talk with your health care provider about what’s best for you. However, if you're planning to have more than one child, it's best to wait no more than five years between pregnancies.

Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?

Yes. Breastfeeding may decrease the odds of getting pregnant by delaying the return of a woman's menstrual period. However, breastfeeding does not prevent pregnancy, even if the mother is not getting a period. Many women ovulate before they see their period return. If you want to be certain not to conceive again until you and your partner are ready for another child, talk with your health care provider about when to return to using birth control. Note that some oral contraceptives that contain estrogen may decrease a woman's milk production. If you think this might be a problem for your milk supply, discuss different birth control options with your provider.

down arrow icon

+Getting pregnant

What if I didn't take folic acid before pregnancy?

If you didn’t take folic acid before getting pregnant, it doesn't necessarily mean that your baby will be born with birth defects. If women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy, it may help reduce their baby’s risk for birth defects of the brain and spin called neural tube defects (NTDs). But it only works if you take it before getting pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before you may even know you’re pregnant.

Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it's important that all women of childbearing age (even if they're not trying to get pregnant) get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Take a multivitamin with folic acid before pregnancy. During pregnancy, switch to a prenatal vitamin, which should have 600 micrograms of folic acid.

Last reviewed November 2012

My menstrual period is irregular. Can I get pregnant?

Every woman's menstrual cycle is different. Some women have their cycle like clockwork. Others have trouble knowing when it's going to happen. If you have only slight variations from month to month, but you have your menstrual period at least once every 25 to 35 days, this could be normal. However, if your cycle is absent for more than 2 months, you bleed too little or too much and you can't predict when it's going to happen, talk to your health provider. Having an irregular menstrual cycle may mean that ovulation isn't happening or it's happening only a few times a year. This will affect your ability to get pregnant. Your health provider will probably check your thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands. After a checkup your health provider will discuss your treatment options.

I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 3 months. What’s wrong?

Pregnancy may not occur right away, so there is no need to worry. For most couples, it may take up to 1 year to conceive. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, or 6 months if you're over 35, it may be time to talk with your health care provider. You and your partner can get tests to find out why you are not getting pregnant

I’m late for my period but my pregnancy test is negative. Why?

If you've taken a home pregnancy test and it's negative (shows that you're not pregnant), you may want to take a blood pregnancy test at your health care provider's office. A blood pregnancy test is more sensitive than a home pregnancy test that checks your urine. The blood pregnancy test can tell a pregnancy very early on. 


Pregnancy tests work by looking for the hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone that a woman's body makes during pregnancy. If both a blood and urine test come back negative and you still have a missed period, talk with your health care provider. Things like stress, eating habits, illness or infection can cause changes in your menstrual cycle.

How soon can I take a pregnancy test?

Home pregnancy tests are usually more accurate when your period is late - about 2 weeks after conception (getting pregnant). If they're done too early, they may say that you're not pregnant when you really are. This is called a false negative. That's why it’s best to take a home pregnancy test when your period is late. Carefully follow the test's instructions. Tests done at a lab or at your health care provider's office are more accurate.

How do you know you're pregnant?

Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you tell if you’re pregnant. Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:

  • You miss your period.
  • You feel sick to your stomach or throw up.
  • Your breasts are big and sore. The area around your nipples gets darker.
  • You crave certain foods. Or you really dislike certain foods.
  • You feel tired all the time.
  • A home pregnancy test shows you're pregnant.

If you have any of these pregnancy signs and think you may be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you're pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal checkups and start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.

Can I get folic acid from food?

Yes, but it's sometimes hard to get enough folic acid each day just from food. Foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid) include lentils, spinach, black beans, peanuts, orange juice, romaine lettuce and broccoli. You have to eat a lot of these foods to get the right amount of folic acid. Fortified grains, like bread, pasta and breakfast cereal, have more folic acid. "Fortified" means that folic acid has been added to the food. Check the product label to see how much folic acid each serving contains. The simplest way to get enough folic acid every day is to take a multivitamin or a prenatal vitamin. If you're not pregnant yet, take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid in it each day. If you’re pregnant, take a prenatal vitamin with at least 600 mcg of folic acid in it each day.

down arrow icon

+Labor and birth

Can I schedule my c-section?

Yes. But more and more c-sections are being scheduled early for non-medical reasons.
Experts are learning that this can cause problems for both mom and baby. If you know you're having a c-section, wait until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. This helps you make sure your baby has all the time she needs to grow before she's born. You may not have a choice about when to have your baby. If there are problems with your pregnancy or your baby's health, you may need to have your c-section earlier. But if you have a choice and you're planning to schedule your c-section, wait until at least 39 weeks.

down arrow icon

+Pregnancy and newborn loss

Who can you talk to you about the death of your baby?

The death of a baby can be overwhelming. You may find it helpful to talk to someone about your feelings. Tell your partner how you feel.  You may find comfort in knowing you’re healing together, even if you’re at different stages of grief. You also can turn to friends or family. They can offer a helping hand while you’re grieving or just be there to listen.

Reach out to your religious or spiritual leader. Your spiritual beliefs may be a comfort to you during this time. Go to your place of worship, such as a church, synagogue or mosque. Even your funeral home may offer support services for grieving families.

Join a support group. A support group is a group of people who have the same kind of concerns. Ask  your provider to help you find a support group in your area. Or visit Share Your Story, an online community that includes families who’ve experience the loss of a baby.

If you think you may have depression, talk to your health care provider. Your provider can help treat your depression.

I had a miscarriage. How long should I wait to try again?

Before getting pregnant again, it's important that you are ready both physically and emotionally. If you don't need tests or treatments to discover the cause of the miscarriage, it's usually OK for you to become pregnant after one normal menstrual cycle. However, it may take longer for you to feel emotionally ready to be pregnant again. Everyone responds differently to a miscarriage. Only you will know when you are ready to try to get pregnant again.

How do you know if you’re having a miscarriage?

Signs of a miscarriage can include vaginal spotting or bleeding, abdominal pain or cramping, and fluid or tissue passing from the vagina. Although vaginal bleeding is a common symptom of miscarriage, many women have spotting early in their pregnancy but don’t miscarry. But if you’re pregnant and have bleeding or spotting, contact your health care provider right away.

 

down arrow icon

+Pregnancy complications

What are choroid plexus cysts?

The choroid plexus is the area of the brain that produces the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This is not an area of the brain that involves learning or thinking. Occasionally, one or more cysts can form in the choroid plexus. These cysts are made of blood vessels and tissue. They do not cause intellectual disabilities or learning problems. Using ultrasound, a health care provider can see these cysts in about 1 in 120 pregnancies at 15 to 20 weeks gestation. Most disappear during pregnancy or within several months after birth and are no risk to the baby. They aren't a problem by themselves. But if screening tests show other signs of risk, they may indicate a possible genetic defect. In this case, testing with higher-level ultrasound and/or amniocentesis may be recommended to confirm or rule out serious problems.

Am I at risk for preterm labor?

No one knows for sure what causes a woman to have preterm labor. But if you have certain risk factors, you're more likely than a woman without risk factors to have preterm labor. Risk factors include: having already had a premature baby or getting pregnant again too soon after having a baby; being pregnant with twins or more; and having problems with your uterus or cervix. You're more likely to have preterm labor if you're underweight or overweight or if you have health problems, like high blood pressure, diabetes or certain infections. Things in your life like stress, smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs also put you at risk. Talk to your provider if you have any of these risk factors. You may be able to reduce your risk and have a better chance for a healthy pregnancy.

down arrow icon

+Pregnancy health

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?

For most women, yes. Unless your health care provider advises you otherwise, sex during pregnancy is safe for you and your baby. Some circumstances make sex during pregnancy unsafe. Pregnant women who have any of these health complications should talk to their provider before having sex:

Usually, a woman can continue sexual activity during pregnancy as long as she feels comfortable. Talk to your health care provider about any specific questions.

Is it safe to get spa treatments during pregnancy?

Some spa treatments are safe. Others may be more painful than usual. And some - like mud baths - are a bad idea while you're pregnant.

Any spa treatments that raise your body temperature (like mud baths, hot wax and seaweed wraps) are almost always unsafe during pregnancy. Steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas also raise your body temperature. They can make you dehydrated and overheated. This can be dangerous for you and your baby. Avoid these treatments while you're pregnant.

Be careful with skin treatments like facials and body scrubs. During pregnancy, your skin changes a lot and may be extra sensitive. Before you cover your whole body with a product, test it on a small area of skin to be sure it doesn't irritate.

Getting your eyebrows done and having your bikini line waxed are usually safe during pregnancy, but they may feel more painful to your sensitive skin.

Is it safe to get or have a tattoo during pregnancy?

It's best to wait until after having your baby to get one. Here's why: Hepatitis B, a dangerous liver infection, and HIV/AIDS are two of many diseases that can be passed along through bodily fluids. This means you can catch these diseases if you get a tattoo from someone who uses a dirty needle. And you can pass these diseases along to your baby during pregnancy.

We don't know how tattoo dyes and inks affect a developing baby. Small amounts of chemicals that might be harmless to an adult can have a much bigger impact on a growing baby.

Most healthcare providers will give an epidural to a woman with a tattoo on her lower back. But they may decide not to if the tattoo is recent and fresh. If you have a tattoo on your back and are considering getting an epidural for pain relief during childbirth, find out what the hospital's policy is before you're admitted.

How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?

The exact amount of weight you need to gain depends on how much you weigh before pregnancy and your Body Mass Index (BMI). Below are some guidelines, but talk to your health provider about your specific pregnancy weight gain goals.

If you began pregnancy at a healthy weight, you should gain 25 to 35 pounds over the 9 months. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, you should put on about 1 pound every week in the second and third trimesters.

If you began pregnancy underweight, you should probably gain about 28 to 40 pounds. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, try to gain slightly over a pound a week in the second and third trimesters.
If you began pregnancy overweight, you should gain only 15 to 25 pounds over the 9 months. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, you should put on slightly over ½ pound every week in the second and third trimesters. While you don't want to gain too much weight, never try to lose weight during pregnancy because that could harm your baby.

If you were obese (with a BMI over 30) at the start of your pregnancy, you should gain only 11 to 20 pounds over the 9 months. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, aim for gaining slightly under ½ pound every week in the second and third trimesters.

Can I keep taking all my prescriptions during pregnancy?

It depends on the drug. Tell your prenatal care provider about any prescription drugs you take. Some drugs may be harmful to a growing baby. You may need to stop taking a drug or switch to a drug that's safer for your baby. Don't take anyone else's prescription drugs. And don't take any prescription drug unless your prenatal care provider knows about it.

Are there any exercises I should not do during pregnancy?

Yes. Don't do exercises, like riding a bike, that could make you lose your balance. You don't want to fall and hurt yourself or your baby. Don't do activities that have potential for serious injury. These include horseback riding, scuba diving, downhill skiing or a sport in which you could get hit in the stomach. Stay out of saunas, hot tubs and steam rooms, and don't do things that could make you overheated. After your first trimester, keep from doing activities that make you lie flat on your back.

down arrow icon

+Your baby’s health

What solids foods should I start my baby on?

Begin with a single-grain iron-fortified cereal such as rice, barley or oatmeal. Mix it with breast milk or infant formula. Start with a small amount once a day. It's hard to tell how much your baby will eat. At first, most of her food will probably end on her bib or face. Be patient and help your baby learn this new skill. It's important that meal time is a pleasant time. This will build the foundation of healthy eating habits. If your baby cries, shows no interest in feeding or turns her head away from the spoon, stop feeding her. She is trying to tell you that she's full or she doesn’t want anymore. You should never force her to eat more than what she wants.

How do I know my baby is growing the way he should?

During the first year of life, your baby will grow and develop at an amazing pace. Your baby's weight will double by 5 to 6 months, and triple by the first year. Major achievements - called developmental milestones - include rolling over, sitting up, standing and possibly walking. And your heart will likely melt at the sound of "mama" or "dada."

Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave and move (crawling, walking, etc.). Your baby's health care provider will evaluate your baby's development at each well-baby visit. Remember: Always talk to your child's health care professional if you think your baby is lagging behind. It's important to know that no two babies are exactly alike. Children grow and develop at different paces.

Are vaccines safe for my baby?

Vaccines (also called immunizations) are one of the best ways to avoid serious diseases caused by some viruses or bacteria. For vaccines to be most successful, everyone needs to get their vaccine shots.

Several years ago, some people were concerned about thimerosal, a preservative used in some shots. Thimerosal contains mercury. Some people worried that thimerosal might cause autism. After a lot of careful research, medical experts found no link between thimerosal and autism. Still, to help ease some parents' concerns, thimerosal is no longer used in vaccines, except in tiny amounts in some flu shots. If you're concerned about thimerosal, ask your children's health care provider to use thimerosal-free vaccines.