According to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the ideal waiting time between pregnancies is between 12 and 18 months.
The findings suggest waiting this recommended period after giving birth can reduce health risks to both the mum and baby of all ages. Mostly mothers over the age of 35 saw risks to their personal health. Meanwhile, women of all ages put their infant at risk, especially those aged between 20 and 34.
"Our study found increased risks to both mother and infant when pregnancies are closely spaced, including for women older than 35," said lead author Laura Schummers in a statement.
"The findings for older women are particularly important, as older women tend to more closely space their pregnancies and often do so intentionally."
After analysing 150,000 Canadian health records of mothers and babies, scientists examined the impact of pregnancy spacing. Researchers analysed information such as birth records, hospitalisation data and infertility information to find a link to both complications with birth as well mortality and morbidity rates.
Results found that less than 12 months between pregnancies was associated with unfortunate deliveries.
1Mothers aged 35 and older who fell pregnant just six months after giving birth were at 1.2 per cent risk of maternal mortality or severe morbidity while also at 6 per cent risk of premature birth.
If the mother waited 18 months, that risk came down to just 0.5 per cent while the chances of premature birth halved.
Further, women in the 20 to 34 age bracket, who also conceived just six months after birth, were at an 8.5 per cent risk of premature birth. That risk drops by 5 per cent if they wait 18 months.
Study authors suggest that the findings could be important for family planning and the different health risks associated with different age groups.
"Short pregnancy spacing might reflect unplanned pregnancies, particularly among young women," says professor of epidemiology Dr Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
"Whether the elevated risks are due to our bodies not having time to recover if we conceive soon after delivering or to factors associated with unplanned pregnancies, like inadequate prenatal care, the recommendation might be the same: improve access to postpartum contraception, or abstain from unprotected sexual intercourse with a male partner following a birth."
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