Time Between Pregnancies: How Long Should You Wait?

 I had my first son as planned, and then became pregnant again a mere five months later, which was not part of the plan. It was not that I didn’t want another child, but that I wanted to have my children further apart. My third child was conceived 34 months after my second.  Throughout my pregnancies, I was surprised to encounter a wealth of opinions about what the right period of time to wait between pregnancies is. Some said have them all at once, keep their ages close together, and be done early. Some said wait, stretch them out, it is easier on your body. Who was right?

What the experts say about how long to wait between pregnancies:

Recent studies reveal both sides of the busy-body opinion givers were in a way correct. While becoming pregnant less than six months after the last increases the risk of birth defects, pre-mature labor, low birth weight and other complications, so does waiting too long. The ideal time period between pregnancies is thought to be no less than eighteen months. It’s suggested waiting until your last child is two years old before becoming pregnant again is a good rule of thumb.

What my personal experience has to say about how long to wait between pregnancies:

My second pregnancy was unquestionably more difficult and high-risk than my first. I suffered nearly no symptoms with my first pregnancy and was plagued with them during my second. I suffered from gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and postpartum thyroiditis after. My second child, however, was not pre-mature, unhealthy, or small. He was one week late, an ounce shy of nine pounds and scored perfectly on his APGAR. I believe this is because I got lucky. From my personal experience, I would agree with the above expert opinion that a time period under six months is harder on the mother’s body and higher risk for the baby as the pregnancy was harder for me, and gestational diabetes occurs higher in women who have had a recent pregnancy. This was my only risk factor for the condition. With my third pregnancy with exceeded the 18 month recommendation, I also experienced a more complicated pregnancy, though my baby was full-term and healthy.

So, in regards to waiting too long, I again would support the two-year-old rule of thumb. One of my brothers and I were a perfect 18 months apart. I have five other siblings, the eldest being eight years older than me and the youngest being 16 years younger than me. I have always had a strong relationship with the brother closer in age as we grew up together, but strained relationships with both the younger and older siblings. I had difficulty relating with them. My older two children support this theory, as they are also not very close with their younger brother. As someone who not only has two children close in age and two spaced further, who also grew up with both siblings close in age and not so close, I feel that keeping age distances to a minimum helps foster better relationships between siblings and makes life easier on the parent.

What is the ideal time to wait between pregnancies then?

Exactly 18 months.

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