A new study that assessed the risks of short intervals between pregnancies has found that women who wait a short time to become pregnant again after giving birth are at a greater risk of health-related complications. The study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests that short intervals between pregnancies are linked to higher risks of death and serious complications - for both mother and baby.
Study lead author Laura Schummers, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, and her team of researchers studied nearly 150,000 pregnancies that occurred over a 10-year period. These pregnancies were recorded in the British Columbia Perinatal Data Registry – a database that contains a summary of information taken from obstetrical and newborn medical records.
They found that waiting less than a year between pregnancies raises the risks in both older and younger women alike. Risks for the mother include complications such as transfusions of three or more units of blood, ventilation, transfer to an intensive care unit and organ failure. Infant risks include stillbirth, death in the first year of life, low birth weight and prematurity.
These days, as more and more women start their families later in life, many are older than 35 by the time they have their first child. According to Schummers, these women are at an age where their fertility is waning, and they want the best possible chance to have more than one child. Dr. Leena Nathan, assistant clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, sees many patients in this situation. Many older moms have short interval spacing between pregnancies because they are worried about their fertility.
"These patients generally are very motivated and will take good care of themselves in order to have a healthy subsequent pregnancy even if it is less than an 18-month interval," she said.
“Women who are 35 and older do quite often plan to have closely spaced pregnancies,” Schummers added. “Among younger women, the pregnancy is less often planned if it’s closely spaced."
All in all, there were actually fewer complications among the babies carried by older women compared to younger women. However, there was still an increased risk in general associated with shorter spacing between pregnancies.