In my neck of the woods, they call these “Irish twins” or “Vatican twins” — siblings born so close together that they’re practically the same age. But new research is showing that spacing pregnancies less than six months apart puts the baby at higher risk for serious complications and even death.
An Israeli study reviewed data from 440,838 live births that occurred in Israel between 2000 and 2005 to women who had previously given birth and found a strong connection between pregnancies spaced less than six months apart and a substantially increased risk of problems.
The risk of early neonatal death was a whopping 64 percent higher for babies whose mothers waited less than six months before getting pregnant again. For babies whose mothers waited between six and 11 months, it was 22 percent higher.
The chances of preterm birth increased by 23 percent and by 15 percent for having a baby who was small or very small for gestational age. And birth defects were 14 percent higher among the less-than-six months group.
The best outcomes were found among babies whose mothers waited 11 months or longer to get pregnant again. And interestingly, waiting a very long time provided no benefit — women who had a five-year gap between pregnancies were 40 percent more likely to give birth early.
Doctors have long believed that spacing pregnancies too close together causes a host of problems for reasons not entirely clear. It may be because nutrient stores in the mother that were depleted in the first pregnancy never have a chance to rebound, or that hormones are still imbalanced, especially in nursing mothers.