Family planning: Get the facts about pregnancy spacing

Pregnancy spacing is an essential part of family planning. Understand the importance of pregnancy spacing and what factors to consider before you conceive again.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Considering having another child? Pregnancy spacing can affect more than how close your children are in age. Here's what you need to know.

Why is family planning important?

Knowing whether you do or don't want to have children in the next few years can help you and your partner prepare for conception or choose appropriate contraception.

If you're already parents, family planning takes on new meaning. Having another child will change your family's lives. Are you and your partner ready to take care of a newborn again? How will your other child or children react to sharing your attention with a new baby?

The timing of your pregnancies is important, too. While you and your partner might have preferences about how close in age you'd like your children to be, some research shows that how you space your pregnancies can affect mother and baby.

What are the risks of spacing pregnancies too close together?

Research suggests that beginning a pregnancy within six months of a live birth is associated with an increased risk of:

  • Premature birth
  • The placenta partially or completely peeling away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery (placental abruption)
  • Low birth weight
  • Congenital disorders
  • Schizophrenia

In addition, recent research suggests that a pregnancy within less than two years of a live birth might be associated with an increased risk of autism in second-born children. The risk is highest for pregnancies spaced less than 12 months apart.

Closely spaced pregnancies might not give a mother enough time to recover from pregnancy before moving on to the next. For example, pregnancy and breast-feeding can deplete your stores of nutrients, particularly folate and iron. If you become pregnant before replacing those stores, it could affect your health or your baby's health. Inflammation of the genital tract that develops during pregnancy and doesn't completely heal before the next pregnancy could also play a role.

Feb. 25, 2017 See more In-depth