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What Is the Recommended Time to Wait to Get Pregnant Again After Having a Baby?

by Sharon Perkins , studioD

The decision of when to have another child after having a baby is a personal one that only you can make. Experts do make suggestions about the optimal spacing between children for both your benefit and the benefit of your children. Some studies suggest waiting at least one year after the birth of a child before getting pregnant again to reduce the risk of autism. Ultimately, the decision belongs to you.

Maternal Recovery

Pregnancy puts a physical stress on your body and an emotional stress on the rest of you. Waiting more than six months after your last birth gives your uterus time to heal and shrink back to normal size. If you had a Cesarean delivery, it allows your incision time to heal after major surgery, obstetrician Dr. Jennifer Wu of Lenox Hill Hospital reports on the "Parenting" magazine website. Waiting six months also allows you time to build your iron and folic acid stores back up. Anemia in pregnancy can cause preterm labor, while low folic acid levels increase the risk of neural tube defects.

Child Benefits

You might want your children close enough so they'll be friends, but not so close that you have difficulty coping with two infants at one time. Even if you have your children close together, there's no guarantee that they'll get along or play together well. No consistent relationship between birth spacing and the quality of siblings' relationships with one another has been found, according to the textbook, "Parenthood in America: An Encyclopedia." Children born more than two years apart and less than two years apart have the same overall levels of interaction and positive or negative effects on one another.

Autism Risks

Having your children too close together could increase the chances of autism in your second child if your first child has autism, a Columbia University study published in the February 2011 issue of Pediatrics found. The highest risk occurred in children born less than one year after their sibling; their odds of developing autism were 3.3 times higher than normal, compared to a 1.86 times higher risk in children born after two to three years and 1.26 times higher risk after a three-year interval.

Pregnancy Complications

If you get pregnant less than 18 months after the end of your last pregnancy, you have a higher risk of giving birth prematurely or having a small-for-gestational age or low birth weight baby. Pregnancy complications also increase if you wait five years or more before adding a sibling, according to a Colombian meta-analysis of studies published in the April 2006 issue of JAMA. Women who got pregnant within six months after a delivery had a 40-percent chance of delivering prematurely and a 61-percent higher chance of having a low birth weight or smaller-than-normal baby.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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