Are there risks associated with spacing pregnancies too far apart?
Research suggests that long intervals between pregnancies also pose concerns for mothers and babies. A pregnancy five years or more after giving birth is associated with an increased risk of:
- High blood pressure and excess protein in your urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy (preeclampsia)
- Slow or difficult labor or delivery (dystocia)
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight
- Small size for gestational age
It's not clear why long pregnancy intervals are linked to health problems for mothers and babies. Some experts believe that pregnancy improves uterine capacity to promote fetal growth and support, but that over time these beneficial physiological changes disappear. It's also possible that maternal age or unmeasured factors, such as maternal illnesses, may play a role.
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 no more 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.
Still, 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.
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.
May. 27, 2011
See more In-depth
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