Parents with multiple children often contend with how far apart they want to space out their brood. Should it be three years? Five? One? Or no planning at all?

Doctors will tell you that each pregnancy is different, but ideally a woman will give her body enough time to heal after delivering a tiny human. The current recommendations of World Health Organization and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that women should try to wait at least 18 months before having another baby.

But a new study by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of British Columbia supports the position that twelve months can be the minimum for becoming pregnant again.

Published in JAMA, the study examined 150,000 births and found that women who got pregnant less than a year after giving birth had an increased risk of health problems for themselves and for baby. Risks include death (for mom or baby), low birth weight, delivery complications, or premature birth.

The risks for infant health was greater for women ages 20-34 versus those who were 35 and older. Overall, the study highlights that morbidity increases as does the risk of pre-term labor with shorter pregnancy intervals. But that risk is higher for younger women. The risk was higher when the pregnancy occurred six months after giving birth.

Researchers hope this information helps women who get pregnant later in life feel comfortable with a longer pregnancy gap, but they also encourage women to make their own personal choices when it comes to giving birth.

Do you find the study’s results encouraging for older women? What are your thoughts on spacing intervals?