Marsupial super reproduction skills

The LA Zoo is full of educational surprises. Did you know that the tammar wallaby can mate and become pregnant again within just a few hours of giving birth?

This little fact begs the questions: after a human female gives birth, when can she mate and become pregnant again?

I usually give my patients the go ahead to resume sexual activity at their 4 week post partum (post delivery) check. It’s probably safe to resume sexual intercourse as early as 2 weeks after the baby is born if: you had a vaginal delivery, and you didn’t have a large tear, with need for sutures, during delivery. For a cesarean delivery, it’s probably best to wait about 4 weeks.

In terms of “mating” aka baby making? Physiologically, a woman may ovulate as soon as 25 days after delivery. If you ovulate, you can get pregnant.

So you need to discuss birth control options with your doctor before you have sex post delivery, unless you want to make like a tammar wallaby. A human embryo won’t pause for 12 months to give a newborn time to develop though. Humans haven’t evolved enough for that.

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Following doctor’s orders

Getty Villa

(Yes, it’s as interesting in real life. See it at the Getty Villa)

I love when little statistics pop out at me when I am reading medical journals. My most recent experience: in one study, post partum women were instructed to abstain from sexual intercourse until 6 weeks post partum. Of these women, 45% had unprotected intercourse before that time. So, basically, 45% of women did not follow the instructions of their doctors.

I tell my patients the same thing as this study. My usual instructions (said in front of their partner, if at all possible): “no intercourse until you see me at your post partum visit in 4-6 weeks”.

Why?