Fer­til­ity

Is there a “per­fect” age gap?

Your Pregnancy - - Con­tents -

IT’S A DIS­CUS­SION with no end – how big should the gap be­tween your chil­dren be? Ev­ery par­ent has their own opin­ion, and what works for one fam­ily might not suit an­other. Some­times, it’s not even within your con­trol – it just hap­pens! How­ever, there are some med­i­cally proven facts to take into con­sid­er­a­tion when you’re plan­ning your next preg­nancy.

WHEN IS TOO SOON?

Preg­nancy takes its toll on your body, and it’s wise to give your­self a break to re­cover be­tween preg­nan­cies to al­low you to re­cover from the phys­i­cal stress of the preg­nancy and re­plen­ish

your stores of es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents, like iron and fo­late. In fact, stud­ies have shown that there’s an in­creased risk of pre­ma­tu­rity and low birth weight in ba­bies con­ceived within six months of a birth. “Re­search has shown there’s a marked ben­e­fit in spac­ing your chil­dren at least one year apart. This re­duces your risk of hy­per­ten­sive com­pli­ca­tions or foetal growth re­stric­tion in the next preg­nancy,” ex­plains Dr Jana Ros­souw, a gy­nae­col­o­gist at Tyger­berg Hospi­tal. “The short­est rec­om­mended in­ter­val is 12 months be­fore fall­ing preg­nant again, but not longer than five years, af­ter which risks in­crease again,” she ad­vises. “Take care of your body af­ter preg­nancy and aim to re­turn to your nor­mal body weight be­fore em­bark­ing on an­other preg­nancy. Healthy life­style goes a long way,” ad­vises Dr Ros­souw. If you have hy­per­ten­sion, di­a­betes or any other chronic con­di­tion, “all med­i­cal con­di­tions should be op­ti­mally con­trolled and med­i­ca­tion ad­justed should some of them be harm­ful to a po­ten­tial preg­nancy,” she rec­om­mends.

GET PRE­PARED

Just as you pre­pared your­self for your first preg­nancy by eat­ing well, cut­ting back on un­de­sir­able prac­tices such as ex­ces­sive drink­ing or smok­ing and tak­ing all the rec­om­mended sup­ple­ments, the same is true of your sec­ond preg­nancy. “Three months be­fore con­tra­cep­tion is stopped, folic acid sup­ple­men­ta­tion should be taken to de­crease the chances of foetal ab­nor­mal­i­ties. Vac­ci­na­tions (espe­cially rubella) and im­mu­nity should be checked with your gen­eral prac­ti­tioner in or­der to be up to date with your sched­ule to de­crease the risks of these in­fec­tions in preg­nancy,” ad­vises Dr Ros­souw.

THE MORE THE MER­RIER?

Psy­cho­log­i­cally and fi­nan­cially it’s also im­por­tant to feel ready for the new chal­lenge of a sec­ond child as a fam­ily be­fore plan­ning to stop con­tra­cep­tion. Don’t imag­ine that it’ll be the same as the ar­rival of your first child, though, be­cause it won’t. A sec­ond child changes the en­tire dy­namic of the fam­ily. Think about how your first child will re­act to hav­ing to share their par­ents’ love, time and at­ten­tion with a new child. Spac­ing your chil­dren fur­ther apart gives your first­born more time to re­ceive your un­di­vided at­ten­tion – and for you to en­joy them as an in­di­vid­ual. How­ever, chil­dren who are very widely spaced might grow up with less in com­mon than chil­dren who are closer in age.

THINK ABOUT THE MONEY, HONEY

Al­though a closer age gap might seem like a good idea be­cause you get the hard work of par­ent­ing young chil­dren out of the way faster, con­sider the costs in­volved. If your first child isn’t yet sleep­ing in a “big bed”, or is still us­ing his stroller, you’ll need to fac­tor in the costs of a sec­ond cot, pram and ac­ces­sories like cot bed­ding. You’ll also be pay­ing dou­ble for nap­pies if your old­est isn’t yet toi­let trained. It’s not just the short-term costs to con­sider, either. What are your plans for school­ing? If a pri­vate school ed­u­ca­tion is a pri­or­ity for you, will you be able to af­ford to put two chil­dren through pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion? And im­por­tantly, if you’re back at work, will you con­tinue to work full-time or will you look for part-time work, or stop work­ing al­to­gether? Many women find it much harder to jug­gle the de­mands of full-time work with two or more chil­dren – con­sider how this might af­fect your house­hold in­come.

AND WHAT ABOUT…

Other things to con­sider are whether your child is set­tled into a good rou­tine (in­clud­ing a good sleep­ing rou­tine), and whether you have a good child­care sys­tem in place. If a fam­ily mem­ber is re­spon­si­ble for look­ing af­ter your first child (a granny, or an­other fam­ily mem­ber), are they ready and equipped to take care of more than one child? Don’t as­sume – it’s im­por­tant to in­clude them in this con­ver­sa­tion.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY AF­TER PREG­NANCY AND AIM TO RE­TURN TO YOUR NOR­MAL BODY WEIGHT BE­FORE EM­BARK­ING ON AN­OTHER PREG­NANCY

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