High risk of premature birth if babies are born less than a year apart

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A study involving 500000 women has indicated that those who have their babies less than one year apart are twice as likely to give birth to a premature baby.

About 20% of mothers who fall into this category will give birth before they reach their 37th week of pregnancy and experience a pre-term birth.

This figure is compared to 7.7% of women who wait the ‘ideal’ time of at least 18 months between having babies.

Premature babies are at risk of suffering from a range of health issues. The earlier the baby is born, the higher the risk of health problems.

The US study examined 450000 births from women in Ohio who went through two or more pregnancies during a period of six years.

The discovered that women with inter-pregnancy intervals (IPI) below 18 months were at higher risk of giving birth before reaching 39 pregnancy weeks, compared to those who waited longer.

In excess of 50% of those with an IPI below 12 months experienced childbirth before the 39th week of pregnancy, compared with 37.5% of women who waited a longer time between pregnancies.

The study stated that women should receive counselling regarding the importance of optimal birthing space. The study has shown that counselling women on the importance of this birthing space would aid in the reduction of the overall rate of premature births globally.

The director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, Louise Silverton, said the results of the study supports the advice that is offered by midwives to women about the spacing of births. She said if women heeded the recommendation about breastfeeding for the first six months before introducing solid foods, they can delay ovulation which will aid in adequate birth spacing.

She added that women should be given access to contraceptive advice that will allow them to space the births. In the UK, the provision of specialist family planning services is inconsistent, with GPs generally only offering the woman oral contraception. These specialist services should be offered to all females.

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