New mums told to leave a year's break between pregnancies

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By David Woode ,  The i

Women should leave at least one year between giving birth and getting pregnant again, a study suggests.

Conceiving less than 12 months after delivery is associated with higher risks of complications, warn researchers.

The study looked into nearly 150,000 births in Canada and found those women who waited 12 to 18 months to conceive after having a baby reduced the risk of short- and long-term damage to both the mother and child’s health.

The research, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal was by a team from the University of British Columbia, Canada, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

'Important findings'

Laura Schummers, a postdoctoral fellow in UBC’s department of family practice, who carried out the study, said: “The findings for older women are particularly important, as older women tend to more closely space their pregnancies and often do so intentionally."

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Researchers analysed the relationship between risks for mothers and babies associated with pregnancy spacing among 148,544 pregnancies in British Columbia. In women over 35 who conceived six months after a previous birth there was 1.2 per cent risk of maternal mortality or severe morbidity. Waiting 18 months between pregnancies reduced the risk to 0.5 per cent.

'Excellent Evidence'

The study reported an 8.5 per cent risk of delivery before 37 weeks in younger women who fell pregnant again after six months.

But younger women who spaced their pregnancies by 18 months saw the risk drop to 3.7 per cent.

Dr. Wendy Norman, associate professor in the UBC department of family practice, added: "Older mothers for the first time have excellent evidence to guide the spacing of their children.

"Achieving that optimal one-year interval should be doable for many women, and is clearly worthwhile to reduce complication risks."