Aug. 7, 2003 -- Having children too close together may not be a good idea, according to a new study.
Researchers say that women with very short intervals between pregnancies are at an increased risk for complications such as premature birth and newborn death. Their study appears in this week's issue of the British Medical Journal.
Researcher Gordon Smith and colleagues compiled information from more than 89,000 women having second births. Women whose time between pregnancies was less than six months had more complications than those who waited longer to get pregnant.
The findings also showed that even women who sailed smoothly through their first pregnancy had more complications -- such as premature birth and newborn death -- when they got pregnant again in a short time. Researchers excluded women who had complications during their first pregnancy.
They suggest that the connection between a short pregnancy interval and preterm birth may lie in proteins that help regulate delivery. The researchers propose that a short interval does not allow these proteins to fall to prepregnancy levels. More research is needed to prove this theory and to further decipher the link between pregnancy intervals and pregnancy problems.
Women should be informed of a small but significantly higher risk of premature birth and newborn death when they conceive shortly after a birth, researchers say. They recommend that doctors discuss contraceptive methods with new mothers. They also suggest targeting teenagers and women who have lost a newborn baby in particular -- two groups of women that are more likely to get pregnant again quickly.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, Aug. 9, 2003.