Is it safe to have back-to-back babies?
What is the ideal spacing between children? Jessica Simpson and Tori Spelling are just a few celebrities who are having back-to-back babies. Having babies close in age comes with benefits (your diaper changing skills are finely honed), but are there risks?
We chat with doctors about what you should be aware of when having back-to-back babies.
Tori Spelling found out she was pregnant with her fourth child when her third child, Hattie, was only 1 month old! Jessica Simpson was toting around her 7-month-old daughter Maxwell when she found out about her surprise pregnancy. Having babies close in age does mean your diaper-changing days will be over sooner, but doctors warn there are risks.
What are the risks to having back-to-back babies?
“Studies show that there is a higher incidence of low birth-weight and premature birth when conception takes places within six months of a previous delivery,” Dr. Debra Wickman, OB/GYN and a doctor with SHE, Sexual Health Experts in Arizona told SheKnows.
“This is likely due to depletion of nutrients and vitamins that have not had time to become replenished and full physical and psychological recovery may not have occurred by six months postpartum,” says Dr. Wickman, who goes on to say that other factors to consider include “potential sibling rivalry, and increased stress on the caregiving mother.”
But isn't it hard to conceive when you have a newborn?
It is more difficult, but not impossible. Spelling mistakenly thought that since she was breastfeeding she couldn't get pregnant. She admitted that even though she wasn't medically cleared to have sex yet (doctors advise waiting six weeks after giving birth), she and her husband went for it — and the result was baby Finn!
Dr. Wickman says that your menstrual cycle may not have returned to normal yet — especially if you are breastfeeding — which makes ovulation hard to predict.
“If you need time to recover physically or emotionally, use reliable contraception until you have given yourself and your partner time to recover. A great idea is to schedule an appointment with your doctor before stopping contraception and 'going for it,'" suggests Dr. Curtis.
How far apart should you space your pregnancies?
Studies have shown that there is actually an optimum time to wait between pregnancies for the health of you and your baby.
“Most experts recommend waiting to conceive until 18 to 24 months after the prior delivery,” said Dr. Wickman.
Is it harder to lose the baby weight when babies are close in age?
OB/GYN Glade Curtis, who is co-author of Your Pregnancy Week By Week, says that it is that is harder to lose the baby weight when babies are close in age because you never had a chance to lose the baby weight from the first pregnancy.
“The biggest problem I see is with weight gain. In many cases, a woman gets pregnant again before she has had time to get back in shape and lose all of her pregnancy weight," he said. "With each pregnancy often a woman starts the pregnancy with 5 or 10 extra pounds and by the time they have had 2 or 3 kids, they have 20 or more extra pounds that can be very hard to lose."
His advice? "Take time after each pregnancy for yourself, get a good exercise program going and work on getting your weight to a good level for you."
Will giving birth be more difficult if they are close together?
“Having a baby soon after delivering a prior baby will not affect the physical process of giving birth again,” says Dr. Wickman.
Dr. Curtis says it is best, however, to recover from one pregnancy before attempting another. “Every pregnancy is different, just because you sailed through one pregnancy without complications doesn’t guarantee the same for the next time around,” he warns.
How will having babies close together affect your relationship with your spouse?
One area that many moms may not consider is the toll that back-to-back babies could have on their sex life.
“The toll taken on the sex life can be significant, as the body is more depleted of vital nutrients and there are significant changes in the neurochemicals of the brain,” says Dr. Wickman. “The fatigue and stress of a second delivery can alter testosterone production, and other pro-sexual neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. It can make weight loss more difficult, and muscle strength more elusive. This creates more of a toll on one’s body image and self-esteem as well.”
Can you continue to breastfeed your baby if you get pregnant again?
"It is considered safe for both the fetus in the womb and the child already delivered," says Dr. Wickman.
She does that pregnancy-related tenderness in the breasts and nipples may cause some discomfort while breastfeeding — and the child may also notice a difference in the breast milk. “A new pregnancy may cause the child to wean himself as the hormonal changes after conception changes the taste and consistency of the breast milk," she says.
Dr. Curtis warns that breastfeeding while pregnant can cause a decrease in breast milk. "The demands on your body by both breastfeeding and being pregnant at the same time are not felt to be beneficial for you. In most women they can work against each other — pregnancy tends to decrease your milk supply,” said Dr. Curtis.
The benefits of having babies close in age
Life doesn’t always go as planned, however, and if you do find yourself pregnant with a newborn it is best to get early prenatal care and look at the positives of having babies close in age:
“I loved having my kids back-to-back,” said Mary Ellen Rose, whose kids are only 14 months apart. “It allowed me to get them both out of diapers, bottles, pacifiers and potty trained at the same time! They were great companions to each other and I didn't worry about getting my body back until I had gone through the second pregnancy — and it was a quick comeback!"
Having babies close in age does have benefits. However, if you are planning out when to have your next child it is best to take the doctor’s advice and wait one year before trying to conceive again.
“My best advice is to recover as a couple physically and emotionally before attempting another pregnancy. This way you are giving yourself and your baby the best chance for a healthy and positive pregnancy. Enjoy the miracle of a newborn and a pregnancy!” said Dr. Curtis.