Updated 21 November 2018

Take at least a year between pregnancies, new research says

Research says that women should wait a year or more between having babies, to reduce health risks to themselves and their infants.

Are you planning to have your second child? According to a new study you might want to wait at least a year. 

"Our study found increased risks to both mother and infant when pregnancies are closely spaced, including for women older than 35," said lead author Laura Schummers, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of family practice at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Ideal length of time

"The findings for older women are particularly important, as older women tend to more closely space their pregnancies, and often do so intentionally," Schummers explained in a university news release.

The researchers analysed data on more than 148 000 pregnancies in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and concluded that 12 to 18 months was the ideal length of time between giving birth and getting pregnant again.

Women older than 35 who got pregnant six months after a previous birth had a 1.2% risk of serious complications or death. The risk was only 0.5% among those who waited 18 months before getting pregnant again.

Among these older women, the risk of preterm labour was about 6% among those who got pregnant within six months of giving birth. That risk dropped to 3.4% among those who waited 18 months before starting a new pregnancy.

'Doable' interval

With younger women, aged 20 to 34, the risk of preterm labour was 8.5% among those who got pregnant again within six months. That compared to 3.7% among those who waited 18 months before getting pregnant again.

The findings, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, provide guidance for older women who are planning families, said study senior author Dr Wendy Norman. She is an associate professor in the department of family practice at UBC.

"Older mothers for the first time have excellent evidence to guide the spacing of their children," Norman said. "Achieving that optimal one-year interval should be doable for many women, and is clearly worthwhile to reduce complication risks."

Image credit: iStock


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