Spacing Babies: What's the Ideal Interval Between Pregnancies?
How to decide what's best for you, your body, and your family
Is there an ideal age difference between siblings, and if so what is it? While opinions on the matter are strong, they vary. In reality, everyone’s situation is unique, but here are factors to consider in making your own decision about the size and timing of your family.
Ilona*, an Internet producer in Toronto, Canada, is expecting her second child three years after the birth of her son, Max. For her, cost was a big factor in the timing of baby number two. “Full-time daycare for two is costly,” she says. “By the time my second child goes into daycare, at approximately eight months, Max will be entering junior kindergarten, which is free.”
For Debbie, a mother of two in Montreal, neither pregnancy was planned but certainly wanted. “I was told before I got pregnant that my chances of conceiving were very low so I did not use any birth control, even after the birth of my first child. Then I got pregnant with my second child 15 months later.”
Whether or not pregnancies are planned, the interval between them may dictate the health of mother and child. “The risks of low birth weight, prematurity, and small size are higher [when subsequent pregnancies are] between zero to three months and greater than five years,” says Dr. Kristie L. Milowic, MD, a clinical fellow in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Center for Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in the February 25, 1999, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the recommended interval between pregnancies is 18 to 23 months. Those who became pregnant within six months of giving birth had a 30 to 40 percent greater chance of delivering a premature baby or a child small in size. The risks also increased significantly for mothers who waited 10 years. These women were twice as likely to have undersized babies and had a 50 percent greater chance of delivering prematurely. The study examined 173,205 births in Utah from 1989 to 1996, with the majority of mothers being white. The results may not be the same for minorities or for high-risk pregnancies. A second study to account for this deficiency is currently underway.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN