A woman who conceives again within six months of giving birth runs a far higher risk of a preterm baby or a stillbirth, researchers have confirmed.
A study involving 90,000 women who were on a second pregnancy found that the interval between birth and a further conception was a vital determinant of the health of the baby.
Although obstetricians were aware of the risks of a quick second pregnancy, they did not know if socioeconomic factors also had a part to play. Many mothers who became pregnant again within six months of a first birth were from deprived areas and were more likely to be smokers.
The new study, carried out by Cambridge University, has discovered that the risks apply to a woman from any background, and even if she was a non-smoker.
Complications during the first pregnancy were also thought to indicate problems the second time, but again, the Cambridge researchers found women who had a trouble-free pregnancy and birth were just as likely to suffer complications the second time if they conceived too soon.
After adjusting for demographic factors, the researchers found that a woman who conceived within six months of giving birth had a 60 per cent greater risk of a ‘moderately’ preterm birth, double the risk of an ‘extremely’ preterm birth, and almost four times the risk of a neonatal death.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2003; 327: 313-6).