What's the best interval between pregnancies?
To reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and other health problems, limited research suggests waiting at least 18 to 24 months but less than five years after a live birth before attempting your next pregnancy. However, further research is needed to determine whether the effects of birth spacing on maternal and fetal health differ between developed and developing nations.
Choosing when to have another baby is a personal decision. When planning your next pregnancy, you and your partner might consider various factors in addition to the health risks and benefits, including your health, age, fertility, relationship, how many children you have, how many children you hope to have, access to health care, child-rearing support, and social and economic circumstances.
Until you make a decision about when to have another child, be sure to use a reliable method of birth control — even if you're breast-feeding. Once you feel ready to get pregnant again, ask your health care provider for guidance.
How does pregnancy spacing affect children?
Every child — and family — is unique. However, research suggests that closely spaced pregnancies can affect children. For example, children who are less than two years apart might experience more conflict than do children who have greater age differences. Spacing siblings more than two years apart also might mean better reading and math scores for the older children. This could be a result of parents spending more time with the older children before having a new baby.
What else do I need to know about pregnancy spacing?
There's no perfect time to have another baby. And, even with careful planning, you can't always control when conception happens. However, understanding the risks and benefits associated with timing your pregnancies too close together or too far apart can help you make an informed decision about when to grow your family.
April 15, 2014
See more In-depth
- Report of a WHO technical consultation on birth spacing. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/birth_spacing05/en/. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Closely spaced pregnancies are associated with increased odds of autism in California sibling births. Pediatrics. 2011;127:246.
- Shachar BZ, et al. Interpregnancy interval and obstetrical complications. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Eijsden MV, et al. Association between short interpregnancy intervals and term birth weight: The role of folate depletion. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;88:147.
- Grisaru-Granovsky S, et al. Effect of interpregnancy interval on adverse perinatal outcomes — A national study. Contraception. 2009;80:512.
- Sholapurkar SL. Is there an ideal interpregnancy interval after a live birth, miscarriage or other adverse pregnancy outcomes? Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2010;30:107.
- HTSP 101: Everything you want to know about healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy. World Health Organization. http://www.esdproj.org/site/DocServer/HTSP_101_Brief_Final_corrected_4.9.08.pdf?docID=1761. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Conde-Agudelo A, et al. Birth spacing and risk of adverse perinatal outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2006;295:1809.
- King JC. The risk of maternal nutritional depletion and poor outcomes increases in early or closely spaced pregnancies. The Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133:1732S.
- Healthy people 2020 summary of objectives. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/objectiveslist.aspx?topicId=13. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Preconception health and health care: Women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/preconception/women.html. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Kottke M. Nondaily contraceptive options: User benefits, potential for high continuation and counseling issues. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 2008;63:661.
- Recovering from birth. The National Women's Health Information Center. http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-beyond/recovering-from-birth.cfm. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Gunnes N. Interpregnancy interval and risk of autistic disorder. Epidemiology. 2013;24:906.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; 2010:282.
- Bujold E, et al. Risk of uterine rupture associated with an interdelivery between 18 and 24 months. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2010;115:1003.
- Getahun D, et al. Previous cesarean delivery and risks of placenta previa and placental abruption. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2006;107:771.
- Conde-Agudelo A, et al. Effects of birth spacing on maternal health: A systematic review. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2007;196:297.
- Zhu BP, et al. Labor dystocia and its association with interpregnancy interval. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2006;195:121.
- Crowne SS, et al. Relationship between birth spacing, child maltreatment, and child behavior and development outcomes among at-risk families. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2012;16:1413.
- Shachar BZ, et al. Interpregnancy interval and obstetrical complications. Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey. 2012;67:584.
- Sibling relationships. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://patiented.aap.org/content.aspx?aid=5019. Accessed Dec. 11, 2013.
- Buckles KS, et al. Birth spacing and sibling outcomes. The Journal of Human Resources. 2012;47:613.