Proper timing of pregnancies can help decrease the risk of premature delivery

The proper timing of pregnancies, Washington University researchers say, can decrease a woman’s risk of having a baby born prematurely with a host of health problems.

Emily DeFranco discusses the potential health risks of not allowing enough time between pregnancies.

A study led by Emily DeFranco, D.O., a clinical fellow in maternal-fetal medicine and a staff member at Washington University’s Center for Preterm Birth Research, found that women who became pregnant less than six months after delivering their first baby increased their risk of subsequent preterm birth by 41 percent.

Babies were considered to be premature if they are born with a gestational age of less than 35 weeks (normal is 40 weeks). Women who conceived their second child six to 12 months after delivering their first child increased their risk of preterm birth by 14 percent, and waiting 12 to 18 months to conceive carried no significant increase in risk of preterm birth.

The research team evaluated more than 156,000 women from Missouri who had two births from 1989 to 1997. The researchers looked at the intervals between pregnancies and the outcomes for those pregnancies. The study was published recently in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“Wait a minimum of 12 months before becoming pregnant again,” De Franco said. “That advice is especially crucial for women who have already had a preterm birth, which raises the preterm risk in subsequent pregnancies.”