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Birth Spacing: Plan for Health and Safety

Feb 06, 2024
image of boy hugging his pregnant mother

Planning for when to have a second, third or even sixth baby can be important to the health of both the birthing person and the new baby. The time between the birth of one baby and becoming pregnant again can have an impact on the outcome of the pregnancy for mom and baby. There are some possible increased risks that may occur when someone gets pregnant too soon after having their last baby or even when they wait too long. Ideal pregnancy spacing is more than 18 months and less than 5 years. 

Why Does It Matter How Far Apart Pregnancies Are?

  • Pregnancies that occur less than 6 months after a prior pregnancy may be at an increased risk for preterm birth, low birth weight, and admission of the baby to the NICU.
  • People who get pregnant in less than 12 months may be at increased risk for being overweight or obese at the beginning of the new pregnancy and for developing gestational diabetes.
  • Waiting more than 5 years between pregnancies may increase the risk of developing pre-eclampsia or having difficulties with labor.

Allowing adequate time between pregnancies allows the body to recover. It can take time to replenish nutrients that are important for growing another baby. Additional time also allows the body to heal from the previous delivery, especially if a cesarean section was done. The uterus can have more time to prepare for another pregnancy and the risks of attempting labor are likely reduced. 

How to Control the Amount of Time Between Pregnancies?

  • Effective birth control is a great way to stay in control of when you want to have a baby and avoid a closely spaced pregnancy.
  • Discussing birth control options during a current pregnancy can help you be better prepared to have a plan immediately after delivery when you have lots of other things to think about.
  • You can even have a long-acting reversible form of birth control like an IUD or implant placed immediately after delivery before you even leave the hospital.

Special Situations

You do not need to wait as long after a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. There are no major differences in the outcomes after these types of pregnancies and the next pregnancy based on how long a person waits to try again. It may be reasonable for older women with more limited time to conceive to wait just 12 months between pregnancies. 

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Featured Expert

Maggie Rosen, MD
Obstetrics and Gynecology

Maggie Rosen, MD is a part of the physician team for the Teen and Pregnant (TaP) program at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.