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