Study reveals the ideal time between pregnancies
The study found that it doesn't matter how old you are - getting pregnant too quickly after delivery brings about a lot of risks to both the mum and the unborn baby.
Mums, is your current heart’s desire to have another baby? You might not want to rush when it comes to getting pregnant again, as it can lead to health consequences. It’s backed by science, too, with researchers recently revealing the minimum time between pregnancies that is best for health.
Study discovers minimum time between pregnancies
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends mums to space out their pregnancies every 18-24 months. However, in a recent study, scientists discovered that this isn’t needed.
Their findings show that the minimum time between pregnancies should be at least 12 months. Waiting for a year before having another baby makes it less likelier for both the mum and her baby to experience health issues.
Becoming pregnant again too quickly after having a child (i.e. before 12 months) comes with a lot of risks. These include premature birth, low birth weight, maternal death.
Dr Wendy Norman is a senior author of the study. She finds the study’s results to be “encouraging news” for women older than 35 who want more kids.
For once, older mums “have excellent evidence to guide the spacing of their children” says Dr Norman. “Achieving that optimal one-year interval should be doable for many women and is clearly worthwhile to reduce complication risks.”
Exactly what did the study find?
The study analysed 150,000 women who gave birth in Canada. It was conducted by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health.
The researchers published their results in the Journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Here’s a short summary of what they found when mums got pregnant earlier than 12 months after delivering their previous child:
- Age doesn’t matter. Becoming pregnant again earlier than the minimum time between pregnancies (one year) was linked to extra risks for women of any age.
- But, maternal risks differ by age. Mums over 35 risked maternal health issues if they had their next child too soon. Risks towards unborn babies, however, happened in all women, the highest being among 20- and 34-year-olds.
- Mums older than 35 who entered pregnancy six months after giving birth had a 1.2% risk of maternal death or injury. Not becoming pregnant for the first 18 months after delivery reduced this risk to 0.5%
- In contrast, younger women who conceived again six months after giving birth had an 8.5% risk of maternal death or injury. The risk falls to 3.7% if they became pregnant again after 18 months.
“Ultimately, it is a woman’s choice”
Laura Schummers, the lead author of the study, said that their study highlighted “increased risks to both mother and infant” when mums became pregnant quickly after delivery, even for women over 35.
Schummers emphasises that these findings are crucial for older mums, as they “tend to more closely space their pregnancies and often do so intentionally”.
Mandy Forrester, of the Royal College of Midwives, commented that this key research supports previous findings on birth spacing. However, she still stresses out that:
“Ultimately, it will be a woman’s choice, whatever age they are, about how long they leave between their pregnancies. What is important is that they are aware of the evidence around birth spacing and that they make their choice armed with the right information.”
Other tips to reduce pregnancy risks
Before becoming pregnant: prenatal care
- Eat a balanced diet and remain hydrated. That includes a balance in calories, carbohydrates, protein and fibres. Choose wholemeal carbs instead of refined grains like white rice. You should also bulk up on folic acid, found in leafy vegetables. Load up on iron and calcium, too!
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and harmful substances.
- Drink less caffeinated drinks like tea or cola, as they can make it longer to get pregnant. Green tea, though, is an exception.
- Don’t try out the new fad diets, as they can affect your ovulation and consequently your fertility.
- Go for your first prenatal visit. There, doctors will be able to test for any potential health issues you might have and advise you accordingly.
- Load up on healthy food such as spinach (folate), fruits (vitamins and fibre), and milk (calcium) to keep your body in tip-top condition.
- Go for short, slow walks to keep good blood circulation. Besides, the fresh air can do wonders to improve your mood. Go to the beach or a quiet park to enjoy some serenity for a calm mind.
- Avoid chores at home which involve:
- harsh or strong chemicals
- cleaning fans, ceilings, or windows
- washing dishes
- carrying heavy things
- mopping, sweeping and vacuuming
- cleaning up after pets
- Stay away from certain foods, in particular:
- any raw or undercooked meat (including pates, sausages, cold cuts, poultry, sashimi, sushi, fish, rare meat)
- raw eggs and their products, like hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, poached eggs
- big fish rich in mercury like shark, marlin, tuna and mackerel.
- unclean fruits and veggies which haven’t been rinsed or have dirt on them.