There are a lot of personal goals that go into how you plan your family’s birth spacing. Some couples like have their entire family quickly so they can get all the chaos out of the way, others like the 2 years space so they only have to buy one crib, one highchair, on infant car seat so each child can use it as soon as the previous one has finished.
There is, however, another reason to consider – a mom’s health.
A new study is suggesting couples wait at least a year before conceiving another baby to minimize health risks.
While it is widely recommended at least 18 months to two years between pregnancies, the study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests one year after birth could be enough time before safely conceiving again.
“The very lowest risk time that we found was 18 months,” said Laura Schummers, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s department of family practice. “But what we found also was that risks between 12 and 24 months were basically equivalent to those at 18 months.”
The team evaluated women for “near-miss mortality” events associated with pregnancy and delivery, she said. “This is organ failure, intubation, or being in [the] intensive care unit. This is not … a complication like developing preeclampsia, which is much more common.”
The severe fetal and newborn risks measured include very low birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth and infant death within one year of birth.
The researchers looked for these outcomes in records documenting 148,544 pregnancies in British Columbia over 10 years, from 2004 to 2014. They also looked to see if women aged 35 and over might be at heightened risk.
Findings found that of the women between 20 and 34 years old who became pregnant six months after their last baby was born, 85 out of 1,000 had premature births. That risk dropped by more than half (37 cases per 1,000) when the pregnancies were spaced out by 18 months.
In women aged 35 and older six out of every 1,000 who conceived another baby six months after giving birth suffered life-threatening complications. That risk dropped to about three in 1,000 when mothers in that age group waited at least a year.
“A family that might be considering a second pregnancy about six or nine months after delivery of the first, it might be worth waiting that extra three to six months to lower risks, both to the mother and baby,” said Schummers.
This study is good news for couples looking to fast track their family.