How Long After a Miscarriage or Abortion Should You Wait to Conceive?
For 15 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to wait at least six months before they attempt to achieve a pregnancy after a miscarriage or an abortion.
WHO guidance was based on the idea that a shorter interval could increase the risk of adverse perinatal and maternal outcomes in the subsequent pregnancy. However, the evidence to support this idea was limited and based mainly on a single study out of Latin America.
New research from Australia challenges this longstanding WHO guidance. The study pulled national health registry data from 49,058 births after a miscarriage and 23,707 births following an abortion in Norway from 2008 to 2016. Researchers analyzed data for six adverse pregnancy outcomes:
- Preterm birth
- Spontaneous preterm birth
- Small for gestational age
- Large for gestational age
- Gestational diabetes
The findings suggest that women who attempted to conceive sooner than six months after a miscarriage or an abortion did not experience notably higher risks of these six adverse pregnancy outcomes.
"After evaluation of a range of maternal and child-related outcomes in our study, we indicated that there is no support for existing claims referring to conceiving too soon after miscarriage or induced abortion could increase risk," said lead study author Gizachew Tessema, Ph.D., a perinatal and reproductive epidemiologist and healthcare services researcher at the Curtin School of Population Health in Perth, Australia.
Based on their results, Tessema believes WHO guidelines should be updated.
"In light of our finding that shows no increased risk of perinatal and maternal outcomes for births that conceived sooner than three months after a miscarriage or induced abortion, our study motivates the WHO to reconsider the existing recommendation that requires women to wait at least six months after a miscarriage or induced abortion," Tessema said.
Attempting to conceive after a miscarriage or an abortion
So, how long after a miscarriage or an abortion should you wait before trying to get pregnant again? According to Monte Swarup, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN and the founder of Vaginal Health Hub in Chandler, Arizona, you can technically get pregnant within weeks.
"Following a miscarriage, you can become pregnant within two weeks," Swarup said. "Most women have successful pregnancies following a miscarriage. Repeat miscarriages are rare. If that were to occur, there is testing that can determine the cause."
After an abortion, your period should return within four to six weeks, Swarup said. In fact, you can get pregnant before your period even returns.
To ensure your best chance for a successful pregnancy, both professionals recommend speaking to your OB-GYN first. In addition, it's important to take sufficient time to heal emotionally, the experts agreed.
"There will be some sadness and grief due to your pregnancy loss," Swarup said. "The emotional healing will often take longer than your healing physically."
"Experiencing early pregnancy loss—particularly miscarriage—is very obviously devastating," Tessema said, adding that women may need to take some time to be emotionally and mentally ready before they conceive again.
"To some degree, I also believe that for some women who are repeatedly trying to conceive with no success, conceiving sooner may help them to feel better than otherwise," Tessema added. "I don't believe that these women will need six months or longer, but it should be a personal choice."