How long should you wait between pregnancies?

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Let’s say you’ve already welcomed one bundle of joy into your life. You’ve survived those initial sleepless nights and arguing with your partner over whose turn it is to change the diapers. You couldn’t be more thrilled with your littlest family member. In fact, you’re so thrilled that you’re considering welcoming an even newer addition to your home. The only question is finding the right time

Every family is different, of course, and yours may have extenuating circumstances to work around. Medically speaking though, there are advantages and disadvantages both to rushing and waiting. Here’s what you need to know when family planning.

Too early

The process of pregnancy and birth is rough on the female body, to put it mildly. Lots of mental and physical energy is exerted and by the time the child is born, the new mama may feel pretty drained. However, unbelievable as it might feel, it is possible to become pregnant again within the first couple months of giving birth.

Pregnancy within 12 months of giving birth does come with a few risks, including autism in second-born children, low birth weight, premature birth, an increased risk of uterine rupture (if attempting a vaginal birth after a C-section), and the placenta peeling away before delivery or attaching to the lower part of the uterine wall. Obviously, these will not occur in every case, but it’s important to be aware of the possibility.

If you and your partner want to wait to have more children, don’t leave it to chance. Be proactive about using birth control to ensure that your next addition comes when you’re ready.

Too late

Pregnancies that are more than five years apart also carry a few risks. It’s not entirely clear why this is, but births spaced farther apart can result in premature birth and a low birth weight. The general consensus is that the best time (strictly physically speaking) to have a second child is more than 18 to 24 months but less than five years after the first. Interestingly, children spaced two or more years apart often have better test scores, possibly because mom and dad have more quality time with their first child before having to attend to the needs of a new baby.

Looking for a doctor for your OB/GYN, WOMEN – GYNECOLOGY questions? We recommend:
Kanoknat Boonvisudhi, M.D. Kanoknat Boonvisudhi, M.D.
Women’s Health Center, Samitivej Sukhumvit
Questions about your pregnancy, child birth or life with an infant? Ask the Doctor!

Age factors

For women under 35 years of age who have had a term live birth, WHO and USAID recommend for an interval between pregnancies greater than 2 years and less than 5 years.

For women 35 years of age and older who have had a term live birth, an interval between pregnancies of 12 months is a reasonable approach to balance the increasing risk of subfertility and infertility with advancing age and the increased risk of pregnancy complications associated with a very short interval (< 6 months).

Emotional factors

As with any part of parenting, the physical is only part of the story here. The age gap between your children will help determine their relationship as they grow up. Children very close in age may have fiercer sibling rivalries, while children very far apart may have difficulty relating to one another. It’s also important to consider whether or not you and your partner are ready to take on the challenge. Be honest with one another about your expectations, concerns and hopes.

References

  1. Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyle: Getting pregnant – Family planning: Get the facts about pregnancy spacing. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/getting-pregnant/in-depth/family-planning/art-20044072. Accessed on February 9, 2015.

Photo Credit: Lori Elizabeth via Compfight cc

ExpectingExpats.com

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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