Healthy babies a matter of timing
— Women can maximize their chances of having healthy babies by spacing their
pregnancies at least 18 months but no more than five years apart, researchers
The researchers reached that conclusion after an analysis of 67
international studies involving more than 11 million pregnancies.
The analysis found that spacing babies too close together or too far apart
raises the risk of complications such as premature births and low birth
The findings suggest that millions of infant deaths could be avoided
worldwide with better family planning, said co-author Dr. Agustin Conde-Agudelo
of Santa Fe de Bogota Foundation in Colombia.
“The financial cost of birth spacing programs is lower than the financial
cost of infant deaths, of course,” Dr. Conde-Agudelo said in an e-mail.
Pregnancy and nursing use up nutrients in a woman's body, he said, and for a
woman to get pregnant again before she has a chance to recover nutritionally may
mean higher risks for the baby.
As for why long intervals between births cause problems too, he speculated
that time could diminish a woman's reproductive capacity and that factors that
decrease fertility also could lead to poor fetal development.
The analysis found that for each month under 18 months between pregnancies,
the risk of premature birth increased 1.9 per cent. For each month longer than
59 months between pregnancies, the chances of premature birth climbed 0.6 per
The analysis appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical
Dr. Conde-Agudelo said the risks of short and long birth intervals held true
for both developing and developed nations, showing up in U.S. studies and in
research from Europe, Africa and Latin America.
The World Health Organization should consider recommending longer intervals
between births, said Rachel Royce, an epidemiologist at Research Triangle
Institute International in North Carolina who wrote an accompanying editorial in
Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick of the University of Illinois-Chicago, who was not
involved in the research, said doctors should educate women about why it is
better to space their pregnancies and make sure they have access to