What is the correct interval between pregnancies?

Traditional advice has been to wait at least a year before conceiving again , suggesting an actual birth interval of at least 18- 24 months as the ideal.  Often the ” fourth trimester”  takes longer than most women expected and the physical , psychological and social adaptations to childbirth can be considerable.  It has generally been acknowledged that a short birth interval of less than 18 months was not advisable because of increased problems during the pregnancy.  But the precise extra risks were, until recently, rather non-specific and uncertain.

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Recent studies have , however, revealed some  important specific risks of a shortened birth interval.  An American study of over 400,000 pregnancies have shown significantly increased risks of preterm labour in those pregnancies that result in a birth within 12 months of the previous  baby.

The report shows that over one in five pregnancies in the shortened interval group (ie 20%), ended prematurely (before 37 weeks).

This compares with one in thirteen (7%), in the women who waited for eighteen months or more.

This is important as prematurity is still the most important cause of early death and disability in small babies.

So the take home message is good contraception till your baby is 9 months and try and avoid the “Irish Twins”!

Breast feeding for six months will also help delay the return of your fertility, so another good reason to try and stick with it.  Although do remember that breastfeeding cannot be used as a form of contraception, you CAN STILL GET PREGNANT WHILST BREASTFEEDING.

However , you may have some particular reasons for avoiding any delay. If so then please talk to your doctor or midwife.