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When it comes to deciding when to try for another baby, there's no one right answer, but there are guidelines.
The World Health Organization previously recommended mothers wait 24 months between pregnancies in order to reduce risks associated with back-to-back births, but new research suggests that a shorter time frame—even just one year—can be enough space to reduce risks to mama and baby.
As America's moms are getting older, this news may come as a real relief to mothers over 35 who are keen to have close-in-age children but are also weighing the risks that come with advanced maternal age, like chromosomal anomalies and infertility. When you're dealing with those issues, 24 months between pregnancies can seem like a long time to wait.
Researchers with the University of British Columbia and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health looked at the outcomes of 148,544 pregnancies in Canada using data from birth records, hospitalization records, prescription data for infertility information and census records.
The study, recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that getting pregnant less than 12 months after giving birth is linked with increased risks for women of all ages. The research suggests that for young moms short spacing between births can sometimes be due to unplanned pregnancies, but for moms over 35, closely-spaced pregnancies are often intentional.
In either case, the risks of spontaneous labor are reduced when pregnancies are at least a year apart.
The study found that women over 35 who conceived six months after a previous birth, have a 1.2% risk (12 cases per 1,000 pregnancies) of maternal mortality or severe morbidity, but when moms waited 18 months, the risk factor dropped to 0.5%(five cases per 1,000 pregnancies).
"Older mothers for the first time have excellent evidence to guide the spacing of their children," said the study's senior author, Dr. Wendy Norman in a UBC news release.
According to Norman, even waiting half of the previously recommended wait time will help mothers, without adding as much anxiety about the wait. "Achieving that optimal one-year interval should be doable for many women, and is clearly worthwhile to reduce complication risks," she explained.
A lot of parents dream of having children close in age and this study proves that it is possible, even for older mamas.