Mothers should give themselves at least a year after giving birth and becoming pregnant again, a new study says.

Moms with inter-pregnancy intervals of less than 12 months are more likely to suffer complications like premature death or infant mortality, the study reveals.

The study — published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Oct. 29 — is based on 150,000 pregnancies in Canada from 2004 to 2014.

Researchers found that women who waited 12 to 18 months between pregnancies had less maternal health risks, as well as fewer problems for the baby.

“Our study found increased risks to both mother and infant when pregnancies are closely spaced, including for women older than 35,” Laura Schummers, the study’s lead author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, said in a public release.

“The findings for older women are particularly important, as older women tend to more closely space their pregnancies and often do so intentionally.”

Regardless of age, a short period of time between pregnancies posed a risk for infants — resulting in still life, low birth weight, small-for-gestational age births, and neonatal intensive care unit admission.

“The take-home message from the study is that closely spaced pregnancies have risks for women of all ages,” Schummers told AFG.

Pregnancies that only had a six-month interval between births had a 59% higher chance of premature birth — when compared to those of 18 months.

The study didn’t examine the reasoning behind short pregnancy spacing, but Dr. Sonia Hernandez-Diaz said it “might reflect unplanned pregnancies, particularly among young women.”

“Whether the elevated risks are due to our bodies not having time to recover if we conceive soon after delivering or to factors associated with unplanned pregnancies, like inadequate prenatal care, the recommendation might be the same: improve access to postpartum contraception, or abstain from unprotected sexual intercourse with a male partner following a birth,” said Hernandez-Diaz, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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