The Right Time to Have a Second Child

Second Child

The right time to have a second child may vary for every set of parents. Some parents prefer to have two children within a few years and consolidate the intense energy devoted to the early parenting years, while others prefer to wait until an older child is more independent, weaned and possibly potty trained. Financial considerations, as well as relationship or work demands may delay or possibly hurry the next due date.

But aside from the practical aspects of family planning, there are also physical reasons to consider when spacing pregnancies.

Most existing research suggests that it’s a healthier idea to wait at least 18 months and possibly 24 months before becoming pregnant for the second time.

Research suggests that becoming pregnant within six months of giving birth is associated with greater risk of having a premature birth the second time around, which can predispose the newborn to more health problems. The shorter the time in between pregnancies, the greater the risk may be. Becoming pregnant for the second time within a year is also associated with having a low birth weight baby and a higher incidence of some birth defects in newborns.

Mothers need time to physically recover from pregnancy and breastfeeding before starting over. Pregnancy and breastfeeding both use up important stores of nutrients such as folic acid and iron. Folic acid is recommended during pregnancy to prevent birth defects, so the risks associated with giving birth too soon may have something to do with depleted levels of such an important nutrient.

A mother who has her first child in her 30s may be in a hurry to add to her family since a mother being older than 35 can increase her risk of having a child with birth defects. Despite the increased risk it is still considered advisable to wait at least 12 months before having a second child.

Eighteen to 24 months may be the recommended minimum time to wait before becoming pregnant again, but there are also recommendations against waiting too long. Research indicates that the ideal time may lie between certain parameters.

Research suggests that waiting more than five years to become pregnant for the second time is associated with a greater risk of maternal high blood pressure and the possibility of preeclampsia, a condition that is the leading cause of birth complications. This may be attributed to the increased age of the mother. The rate of preeclampsia has increased in the U.S. during the last two decades, partly due to a rise in the numbers of older mothers. If a woman had preeclampsia in her first pregnancy, she is more likely to have it in a second and should discuss her options with her healthcare provider.

Between two and five years is considered the ideal span of time between first and second pregnancies. If you are considering having a second child, it’s a good idea to discuss the option with your healthcare provider and ask about any nutritional supplements or tests that may be recommended.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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