Having a baby takes a great deal of effort from the body. It takes away a lot of the mother’s energy and nutrients. Imagine what it would be like to redo this whole ordeal again soon after a baby is born. Sometimes women find themselves pregnant within months of delivery and sometimes they listen to the advice that goes “Have your kids close together. That way they will grow up fast and you won’t have to be tired for a long time.” This advice may be well-intentioned when it comes to the family structure and possibly the finances (hand-me-downs are HUGE money savers!), but they do not factor in the biological consequences manifested as the health of the mother. On the outside it may appear that she is completely healed, but on the inside, on the cellular level, there is still a lot of reconstruction going on.
Pregnancy and childbirth is an experience that requires lots of time for recovery. Some women take years to recover from certain complications. To assume that a woman can simply pop out a baby and redo the experience again months after is just insane! It leaves no chance for the body to recover and for the woman to be emotionally stable again and eligible to make such a decision based on facts rather than emotions. Even when it is well-calculated, the gap between kids could be devastating for the mother if it was not enough for her to recover the first birth. Therefore, women should hold off the decision for second babies until at least 6 months to a year after birth. If all goes well, she can then decide when is the suitable time for the family to start getting bigger.
In this article, we focus on 15 ways that the mother’s body is affected when it does not get enough recovery time between pregnancies.
15 Packing On The Pounds
Weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy. Most mothers who have babies too close together do not have enough time to lose the baby weight from their first pregnancies. Therefore, they gain even more weight during the second pregnancy and end up extremely heavy during and after it. After the second birth, they struggle with a huge number of extra pounds. The extra weight hinders movement and interferes with maintaining a good lifestyle.
It is known that such weight gain definitely takes its toll on a woman’s self-esteem. She feels less attractive and her mood plummets. Emotional problems aside, obesity actually puts the woman at risk for worse diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Losing the weight of a single pregnancy can be doable with enough time, correct eating habits, and light exercise. However, the weight of two pregnancies combined is very hard to lose, even with religious commitment to weight loss plans.
14 Can't Keep Up The Iron
Anemia is the unhealthy decrease in hemoglobin in the blood. One of the leading causes of anemia is the lack of iron in the body. Iron is an important nutrient that is absorbed from the body of a pregnant woman by her fetus. During a pregnancy, a woman loses much of her iron supply. Combined with the blood loss during and after birth, the iron needs of a postpartum woman go sky high.
When a second pregnancy happens, it takes even more iron from the woman’s body. Iron is critical because without it many consequences happen. Lack of iron compromises oxygenation, which can affect all of the tissues of the mother. This could lead to recurrent fainting because of lack of oxygen in the brain. Extreme fatigue is a common warning sign that something is wrong in the iron supply. Although fatigue is common during pregnancy, extreme tiredness should not be taken lightly. Blood tests should be done if anemia is suspected.
13 Low Sex Drive
Apart from being worn out by pregnancy and breastfeeding, the hormones in a woman’s body at this time are not in favor of sex. Everyone hears about how sex drive could be high during pregnancy, but the truth is, all other pregnancy symptoms interfere with this desire. Moreover, the postpartum period brings basically zero sex drive due to exhaustion, caring for the baby, and general healing from the effects of birth. No wonder sex becomes ancient history when this postpartum period is repeated twice!
Hormonal changes, in addition to the new mom pressure, control how a woman feels about sex. Such changes make the mother unwilling to engage in sex with her partner and could negatively affect their relationship. Lack of sex drive can also make a woman feel unattractive and affect her self-esteem at an already vulnerable time. New mothers need support in every way possible and taking intimacy out of the equation does not help anyone.
12 Back Pain
The extra weight gained during pregnancy is focused on the abdominal area. This leads to imbalance in a woman’s center of gravity, causing her to suffer back pain as the pregnancy progresses. Some women do not fully recover from back pain before the second pregnancy kicks in. Additionally, having babies too close together means that while a woman is dealing with a second pregnancy, she is also taking care of a baby or toddler.
Caring for babies and toddlers involves lots of carrying, feeding, changing, and chasing. Those things alone are a reason why postpartum back pain is common and persistent. Add to that the weight of a baby growing inside the body, and the woman is overloaded. Fast forward to the birth of the second baby and you got double the load. Back pain could persist for many years in women who have babies and toddlers in consecutive years, making the whole baby/toddler phase last a lot longer and become a lot more exhausting.
11 Bone Trouble
When we say bones people automatically think calcium. This logic is not flawed, but it is missing a few points. First, women think that by the end of pregnancy the calcium supply to the fetus is stopped and there is no need to worry anymore. This is not true, because breastfeeding sucks even more calcium out of the woman’s body, especially if she is breastfeeding exclusively. Supplements may help, but they do not guarantee full recovery of the calcium levels necessary for healthy bones.
Second, everyone ignores vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is actually the adjunct necessary for calcium absorption. Like all essential nutrients in the body, vitamin D3 is taken from the mother’s body in alarming amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This leads woman to wondering why they have bone problems when they are strict about their calcium supplementation. A massive decline in calcium and vitamin D3 during two close pregnancies can gravely affect the mother’s bone health.
10 Hair Loss
Hair loss during pregnancy is common and expected. Some doctors believe that the cause may be hormonal, which is why it persists for up to a year postpartum, even with correct eating habits and hair care. Yet, we cannot deny the nutritional base behind it. Losing certain vitamins and minerals due to pregnancy is bound to be reflected on hair and nail health.
One of the reasons women lose hair is a lack of zinc. Zinc is important in maintaining hair follicles and when it declines during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it can play a role in why the hair is not growing back as quickly as expected. Women who get pregnant within a year of having a baby are medically still in the expected hair loss “phase.” This phase could be extended because the cause (pregnancy) is repeated, and it messes up hormones and nutritional needs again so soon.
9 Poor Wound Healing
Wound healing is a complex mechanism. Zinc strikes again here as it is involved in DNA cell division, synthesis, bacterial-growth inhibition, protein-synthesis, and maturation of T-lymphocytes. In non-medical terms, this translates to keeping the germs away so the wound doesn’t get infected and making the immune cells grow so the wound can close sooner. Depriving the body of its zinc supply makes wounds take forever to heal, which can be dangerous if a major wound happens. Of course, slowing down healing transfers to poor healing of vaginal tearing or C-section scars in the second birth.
Another important mechanism in wound healing involves vitamin C. Vitamin C generates collagen and provides extra strength and stability to collagen fibers. Collagen is the building block of skin, hair and nails. When skin is
broken, insufficient collagen makes wounds last even longer and risk infection. As an antioxidant, it attacks the increased level of free radicals that invade the wound site upon bleeding.
8 Muscle Weakness
Muscle weakness stems from the deficiency of four main nutrients. First, a lack of iron means lack of oxygenation to the whole body, muscles included. This makes muscles weak and induces pain upon exerting average effort in one’s daily life. Second, the B vitamins have a role to play in muscles too. The most prominent is a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1, lack of which reduces the body's ability to create energy from carbohydrates), leading to muscle weakness and quick tiredness.
The third important mineral is potassium. Potassium is essential for maintaining the communication between nerves and muscles, hence the coordination of movement. Magnesium is the fourth element contributing to muscles, because it is necessary for the mechanisms of contraction and relaxation. Both potassium and magnesium help muscles absorb fluid so they can prepare for effort. When two close pregnancies happen, one or more of those four important elements could be depleted, making movement difficult.
7 Higher Chance of PPD
Women who have two pregnancies very close are more prone to postpartum depression (PPD), according to research. Although the easy explanation is to say that hormones have a role to play, but there is a lot more going on here. PPD can be discovered months after birth. That means that by the time a woman gets help and treatment for PPD, she is already faced with the disaster that another baby is on the way.
This adds to her misery and leaves even less room for her own emotional wellbeing. Treating PPD is not just popping some pills. In some cases, major lifestyle choices are required that could be impossible with another baby. Even if the mother manages to recover before the second birth, she will most likely relapse a few weeks or months after the other baby is born. This is especially true for women who have “surprise” babies.
6 More Difficult Breastfeeding
Getting pregnant while still in the breastfeeding period may make breastfeeding difficult, or even impossible. To begin with, breastfeeding involves the release of high amounts of oxytocin, known as the bonding hormone. This hormone leads to uterine contractions. This can make breastfeeding painful and make breastfeeding women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions more frequently and forcefully.
Another way pregnancy hampers breastfeeding is that it affects milk supply. When the body is in the process of building another baby, it is difficult and draining to also provide adequate nutrition for breastfeeding. As a survival mechanism, the pregnancy is preferred and the milk supply starts to decline. Some scientists argue that the quality of the milk starts to lower, because the important nutrients are directed to the growing baby. Whether or not that is the case, women who prefer to breastfeed for a long time need to make sure they get birth control and not depend on hormones in the breastfeeding period to prevent close pregnancies.
5 Sky High Pressure
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, proteins in urine and sometimes swelling. Usually, mothers with preeclampsia go on bed rest and give birth by C-section as soon as possible. It cannot be treated by medication during the first two trimesters. It is a dangerous condition that could lead to severe problems like strokes and seizures.
Women who have their babies too close together are at a higher risk for preeclampsia. This is especially true for women who suffered preeclampsia in their first pregnancy. This condition threatens the mother’s life as much as the baby’s. Although there is concern about the baby’s growth, there is also the matter of how it is damaging to the mother. Preeclampsia affects liver and kidney function. It also raises the risk for cardiovascular diseases later in life. HELLP syndrome, in which red blood cells are destroyed, is a fatal complication of untreated preeclampsia.
4 Future Placenta Previa
Placenta previa is a pregnancy abnormality that occurs if the placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix. Bleeding can result from this condition and ranges from light to heavy bleeding. In serious cases, blood transfusions may be needed. Women who experience this problem are advised to lay off exercise and sexual activity. In extreme cases, they may even go on bed rest. Women who have two close pregnancies are at a higher risk for having this problem with pregnancy number two.
In many cases, the complications regarding the placenta have to do with the condition of the uterus. Building a placenta and maintaining it involves normal implantation and cell division. Any error could lead to placental problems. Such errors could be nutritional or hormonal. If the correct mechanism of hormones expected at conception is distorted, the body may not be able to correctly keep a placenta where it is supposed to be.
3 Future Preterm Birth
A study in 2006 found that an interpregnancy interval of less than 18 months was associated with an increased risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and small size for gestational age (SGA). This could be related to one or many factors. Of course, lack of macronutrients such as proteins could be affecting the baby’s growth. Also, conditions affecting the placenta could hinder the blood supply (and therefore nutrition and oxygen) reaching the baby.
Overall, when the body is not ready for another baby, overloading it will lead to dysfunction. Whether the problem is with the availability of nutrients or with the delivery of those nutrients to the baby, the problem still exists and is quite common. Such cases also burden the mother’s body, not just the baby’s health and wellbeing. That is because even when the body fails to nourish the baby adequately that doesn’t mean that it is not “trying.” Such tries take a lot from the mother’s energy and health.
2 Uterine Rupture
Uterine rupture is fatal. It happens more commonly in women who have babies too close together and give birth by C-section. Women who give birth naturally have nothing to worry about when it comes to the birth itself, unless complications happen during the pregnancy. However, women who give birth by C-section are prohibited by their doctors from getting pregnant again until 18 months after the first birth. Two draining births close in time is hardly a healthy thing to do, but two close major abdominal surgeries are a whole other story.
The C-section scar is more than an annoying mark on the body. It actually indicates major openings in the internal abdominal layers. To open up such layers again so soon without giving them a chance to heal increases the risk of surgery-related complications. Uterine rupture is one of those dangers, which is why women should make sure that they get proper effective birth control with the least possible risk of pregnancy when they give birth by C-section. They are also advised not to try vaginal births after Cesarean (VABC) if the pregnancy happens again too soon.
1 Maternal Mortality
Mortality among women who have babies too close together is statistically higher than women who space out their pregnancies. Of course, this does not mean that women who have babies close together are going to die. It is just that the fact that early maternal mortality is more common among such women signifies more health problems and a decline in general health and well being. This is worth considering because many women are not completely healthy.
Some conditions, such as diabetes, are manageable with good prognosis. However, with the body weakened by the sacrifice in nutrition and energy to make a baby, things could get more complex. The mother-to-be could be placed at risk of dying as a result of complications from two close pregnancies, even when a single pregnancy is generally safe. The same can be said for women who are healthy, but have family histories of certain diseases. Such women are at risk of death from diseases that surface when the body becomes vulnerable.
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