Study: Too Short Interpregnancy Intervals Results in Significantly Higher Risk of Preterm Birth

For mothers wishing to give their babies the best chance at life, even before birth, it may be important to ensure there is enough spacing between pregnancies – preferably 18 months, but at least a year. This recommendation comes after the latest results of a study on premature birth and interpregnancy intervals from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio was published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

pregnant mom with her daughter

Based on a study of 454,716 women who gave birth to a single baby in Ohio between 2006 and 2011, those had another baby under 18 months after their last were much more likely to give birth to a premature child. This risk was even higher for women who gave birth within a year of their last baby.

In total, those that gave birth less than 18 months after their previous baby were 53.3% more likely to deliver before 39 weeks. This was compared to 37.5% of those that gave birth after at least 18 months. And one in five (20.5%) women who gave birth within a year of their last baby delivered before 37 weeks – the time in which medical complications are more likely. This was almost three times higher than those that waited at least a year and half before having another baby (7.7%).

This has prompted a debate about how long women should wait before delivering their next baby. For younger women, the time frame of at least 18 months seems reasonable. However, for some women – particularly those that have waited until later in life to deliver – the time may conflict with their race against time.

“As obstetricians, we would generally recommend that a woman should wait at least 12 months between pregnancies. However, other factors and individual circumstances must be taken into account, such as maternal age or pre-existing health conditions,” Dr. Patrick O’Brien, a consultant obstetrician and RCOG spokesman, told The Guardian. “These confounding factors may determine whether a woman chooses to conceive slightly earlier than recommended.”

O’Brien added that women concerned about when it may be appropriate to try and conceive a subsequent baby should talk to their obstetricians or a midwife. This may help them determine the best time with the least amount of risk. Or, at the very least, it may help them be more prepared for the potential risks.

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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