New study finds pregnancy gap of at least a year ideal

A new study by University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public, says women do not have to wait for an interval of 18 to 24 months between giving birth and getting pregnant, the ideal recommended guidelines by the World Health Organization.

The study found 12 to 18 months to be an ideal length
of time between giving birth and becoming pregnant again and the researchers hopes this will be "reassuring" and "encouraging news" for women over 35, according to senior study author, Dr Wendy Norman.

Dr. Norman said, "Older mothers for the first time have excellent evidence to guide the spacing of their children. Achieving that optimal one-year interval should be doable for many women and is clearly worthwhile to reduce complication risks."

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers studied nearly 150,000 births in Canada, with focus on one population of women the country, raising questions over its applicability globally.

Shorter gaps between giving birth and getting pregnant poses several risks including: premature births, smaller babies and infant and mother mortality.

Lead author Laura Schummers, said: "Our study found increased risks to both mother and infant when pregnancies are closely spaced, including for women older than 35."

"The findings for older women are particularly important, as older women tend to more closely space their pregnancies and often do so intentionally."

Researcher Dr. Sonia Hernandez-Diaz said the findings suggested different risks for each age group.

"Short pregnancy spacing might reflect unplanned pregnancies, particularly among young women.

"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."

The study also found:
  •     Getting pregnant less than 12 months after giving birth was associated with risks for women for all ages
  •     There were risks to the mother only for women over the age of 35, while risks to the infant were found for all women, but were greatest for those aged between 20 and 34
  •     Women over 35 who conceived six months after a previous birth had a 1.2% risk of maternal mortality or harm (12 cases per 1,000 pregnancies)
  •     Waiting 18 months between pregnancies reduced the risk to 0.5% (five cases per 1,000)
  •     Younger women who got pregnant six months after a previous birth had an 8.5% risk of premature labour
  •     This dropped to 3.7% if they waited 18 months between pregnancies

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