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.
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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