New research has revealed the ideal amount of time to wait between babies – and it may be longer than you think. Researchers say 12 to 18 months is the sweet spot to allow your body to recover from pregnancy and birth, and be ready to do it all over again.
The University of British Columbia and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers found that getting pregnant less than 12 months after having a baby has risks for mums over the age of 35 and bubs with mums of all ages.
“Our study found increased risks to both mother and infant when pregnancies are closely spaced, including for women older than 35,” explained study lead author Laura Schummers. “The findings for older women are particularly important, as older women tend to more closely space their pregnancies and often do so intentionally.”
What are the risks of closely spaced pregnancies?
To work out the risks, researchers studied almost 150,000 pregnancies. They found that women over the age of 35 who became pregnant again six months after giving birth had a 1.2 per cent risk of maternal mortality or severe morbidity. But leaving 18 months between pregnancies reduced the risk to 0.5 per cent.
The study also found that younger mums with two pregnancies in the space of six months had an 8.5 per cent risk of spontaneous preterm birth. The risk dropped to 3.7 per cent for mums who waited 18 months.
So why the increased risk? “Short pregnancy spacing might reflect unplanned pregnancies, particularly among young women,” said Dr Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Whether the elevated risks are due to our bodies not having time to recover if we conceive soon after delivering or to factors associated with unplanned pregnancies, like inadequate prenatal care, the recommendation might be the same: improve access to postpartum contraception, or abstain from unprotected sexual intercourse with a male partner following a birth.”
The researchers say that the findings give mums over 35 a clear guide on the amount of time to wait before trying for another baby.
“Older mothers for the first time have excellent evidence to guide the spacing of their children,” said Senior author Dr. Wendy Norman. “Achieving that optimal one-year interval should be doable for many women, and is clearly worthwhile to reduce complication risks.”
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