A new study suggests that women and their babies face health risks when there’s less than 12 months between the birth of one child and the conception of the next.
Researchers found a modest increase in risk of death or serious illness in the mother in intervals of less than 12 months and larger increases in the risk of adverse outcomes for the baby both before and after birth, as well as spontaneous preterm delivery.
World Health Organization guidelines suggest that women wait at least two years before becoming pregnant again.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that women should be advised to avoid interpregnancy periods of less than six months and “should be counseled on the risks and benefits of repeat pregnancy sooner than 18 months.”
Authors noted that the study found a shorter optimal interval between pregnancies than previously thought for all women.
The study, published in the Journal JAMA Internal Medicine, included 123,122 women and 148,544 pregnancies, and it looked at how the health risks were applied to pregnant women of different ages.
Participants were found using population health databases in Canada, which included all women who had at least two consecutive single pregnancies in a 10-year period.
For those 35 and over, the risk of maternal mortality and severe morbidity was 0.62% when there were only six months between the birth of one child and the conception of the next and 0.26% at 18 months.
For mothers between 20 and 34, there was a predicted risk of 0.23% at six months and 0.25% at 18 months.