The E! News host broke the news with a sweet photo of the couple highlighting her bump, with the caption, “Maybe this baby will look like me??” Then the congratulatory comments started flooding in—and some seemed shocked. “You’re a machine,” wrote model Elisa Sednaoui. “Wait. What?” wrote another. “That was fast,” someone else shared.
Stewart also announced on her show Daily Pop that the pregnancy news was a surprise to her, but managed to keep things under wraps till now after finding out in late July.
Some quick math means Stewart found out the news just 5 months after Row’s birth, which, yes, is pretty fast. But this is also pretty common.
Optimal pregnancy spacing is 18 months
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), one in three U.S. women become pregnant before the recommended ideal “interpregnancy interval” of at least 18 months.
While trying to space out pregnancies to 18+ months apart can reduce the risk of adverse outcomes such as preterm birth and low birth weight, if you do get pregnant before that timeframe, these risks are not prophecies that will automatically fulfill themselves. It just means there’s a slightly higher chance.
What’s most important is monitoring your health as early as possible with your medical providers and managing your calcium, iron and folate levels, which can become depleted after birth.
Here’s what else to keep in mind should you become pregnant quickly after a previous birth.
Keep taking your prenatals in postpartum
On its own, pregnancy can be an extreme sport. It requires an increased need for key nutrients, vitamins and minerals, hence the recommendation from health experts to take prenatal vitamins even before conception. If you’re building a new baby—while also building yourself back up after recently giving birth—continuing to take your prenatal vitamins throughout the postpartum period can help cover any nutritional gaps.
And because adequate folate levels are most effective early in pregnancy, taking your prenatals for the first year postpartum can ensure you have a strong nutritional foundation if you happen to get pregnant during this time.
Know that breastfeeding is not perfect contraception
While it’s true that prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, can suppress ovulation and menstruation, breastfeeding may not be effective contraception unless used perfectly. Most experts say that breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy if used exclusively—but only for 6 months after birth—and that means feeding every four hours and at least twice at night. If you supplement with any formula or exclusively pump, it’s even less effective.
Ultimately, breastfeeding is not a fail-safe method of birth control. If you’re breastfeeding and want to prevent pregnancy, be sure to use a barrier method of contraception, like condoms or an IUD (as some experts think the pill may interfere with milk supply). Talk to your doctor at your postpartum visit about the best option for you.
Pregnancies in quick succession can be strenuous
The sheer physicality of caring for a baby can be a lot for a new mom—and add to that the first-trimester sickness and fatigue common in a new pregnancy? It’s a recipe for exhaustion. Focusing on your diet, exercise and sleep can be helpful here to ensure you’re getting good energy and fighting off that fatigue.
Try to increase your water intake and add in extra fruits, veggies, protein and plant-based fats where you can (if pregnancy aversions allow, of course), and keep up with gentle movement such as yoga, pilates and walking, but make sure you’re getting good rest, too. Sleep is crucial to allow your body recovery time between caring for your infant and growing a new baby.
But having children close in age can be a win
Having closely spaced pregnancies can be a boon, too. Your kids will be close in age, which often means they become tightly knit siblings: built-in best friends with similar interests and who go to the same school (fewer school runs!). Having kids back-to-back can also result in more concrete seasons in your life, like staying in the diaper stage for a few years and then fully graduating, rather than hopping in and out of that space between kids who are farther apart in age.
As with any major life decision, there are pros and cons. The bottom line? Just do what’s best for you and your growing family.