Short gaps between pregnancies 'increase risk of mums dying and premature birth'

But experts are now warning that mums should wait at least a year between giving birth and getting pregnant again to reduce any health risks to both mother and baby.

Researchers say that small gaps between pregnancies can heighten the risk of premature births, smaller babies and infant and mother mortality.

But this new study may be good news for older new mums.

The World Health Organisation currently recommends mums wait 18 months before getting pregnant again, but this new study says that there's no need to wait that long.

Senior study author Dr Wendy Norman said it was "encouraging news" for women over 35 who were planning their families.

"Older mothers for the first time have excellent evidence to guide the spacing of their children," she said.

"Achieving that optimal one-year interval should be doable for many women and is clearly worthwhile to reduce complication risks."

Scientists from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health looked at nearly 150,000 births in Canada.

They found that 12-to-18 months was the ideal length of time to wait between giving birth and getting pregnant again.

Getting pregnant in under a year, the study found, heightened risks for women of all ages, with younger women who got pregnant six months after a previous birth having an 8.5 per cent risk of premature labour.

That figure dropped to 3.7 per cent if they waited 18 months.

Waiting that long also reduced the risk of maternal death or harm from 1.2 per cent to 0.5 per cent (five cases in every 1,000).

It is worth saying that the study only looked at births in Canada, so it's not clear how these findings would relate to women in other parts of the globe.

"Short pregnancy spacing might reflect unplanned pregnancies, particularly among young women," said Dr Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"Whether the elevated risks are due to our bodies not having time to recover if we conceive soon after delivering or to factors associated with unplanned pregnancies, like inadequate prenatal care, the recommendation might be the same: improve access to postpartum contraception, or abstain from unprotected sexual intercourse with a male partner following a birth."

So if you are hoping to start a family and you are a little older, you're much better off having a proper break inbetween pregnancies.

Take your time to recover properly before you think about going through the whole thing again.

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