How long to wait between pregnancies?

KEY POINTS

  • It's best to wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again.

  • Too little time between pregnancies increases your risk of premature birth.

  • Your body needs time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy.

  • Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again.

For most women, how long should you wait before getting pregnant again?

For most women, it’s best to wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. This much time gives your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy.

The time between giving birth and getting pregnant again is called birth spacing, pregnancy spacing and interpregnancy interval (also called IPI).

Why is waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies important?

Getting pregnant again before 18 months increases your risk for certain health problems for your baby, including:

  • Premature birth.
  • Low birthweight.
  • Being small for gestational age (also called SGA). This means your baby is smaller than normal based on the number of weeks he’s been in the womb.   
    Babies with these health conditions are more likely to have long-term health problems.

What can you do to help you get the right amount of time between pregnancies?

Here’s what you can do:

  • Use effective birth control (also called contraception or family planning) until you’re ready to get pregnant again.
  • If you’re pregnant, talk to your provider before you give birth about getting an IUD or implant right after you have your baby. If you don’t get an IUD or implant right after giving birth, talk to your provider about getting one at your postpartum checkup.
  • If you’re older than 35 or have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, talk to your provider about how long to wait between pregnancies.

Why does getting pregnant again too soon increase your chances for premature birth?

Experts don’t know for sure, but it may be because your body needs time to:

  • Build up its supply of nutrients, like folic acid.  If your body doesn’t have enough nutrients, it may cause health problems for you or your baby.
  • Heal from infection and inflammation. Infection during pregnancy can lead to inflammation (redness and swelling) in parts of your body, like the uterus (womb).
  • Reset the microbiome of the vagina (birth canal). The microbiome is a group of microorganisms. Some experts think the microbiome in a woman’s vagina (called the vaginal microbiome) may play a role in premature birth. For example, having an infection called bacterial vaginosis affects the vaginal microbiome and can increase your chances of having a premature baby.