FRIDAY, March 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Women who get pregnant within a year of stillbirth have no higher risk of another stillbirth or other complications than those who wait at least two years, a new study says.
The World Health Organization recommends women wait at least two years after a live birth and at least six months after a miscarriage (loss of fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy) or induced abortion before getting pregnant again. But there is no recommendation for how long to wait after a stillbirth, due to a lack of evidence.
For this study, researchers analyzed nearly 14,500 single births between 1980 and 2016 among women who had a stillbirth (defined by the researchers as a loss after 22 weeks of gestation) in their previous pregnancy. The women were from Australia, Finland and Norway.
Of births analyzed, 98 percent were live; 18 percent were preterm, and 9 percent were small-for-gestational-age births. Of the 2 percent of pregnancies that ended in stillbirth, 88 percent were preterm and 12 percent were full-term.
Waiting less than 12 months to conceive after a stillbirth brought no added risk of subsequent stillbirth, preterm birth or small-for-gestational-age birth, compared with waiting 24 to 59 months to get pregnant again, the study found.
The median length of time between stillbirth and getting pregnant again was shorter -- nine months, compared with 25 months after a live birth.
Among women who had a stillbirth, 63 percent got pregnant again within a year, and 37 percent did within six months, according to the study published Feb. 28 in The Lancet medical journal.
"Approximately 3.5 in every 1,000 births in high-income countries are stillborn, and there is limited guidance available for planning future pregnancies," said study author Annette Regan, a research fellow at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.
"We hope that our findings can provide reassurance to women who wish to become pregnant or unexpectedly become pregnant shortly after a stillbirth," Regan said in a journal news release.
Dr. Mark Klebanoff is principal investigator at the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He wrote an editorial that accompanied the study.
The time between pregnancies appears to be less important than assumed, at least for women in high-income regions of the world, according to Klebanoff.
"Rather than adhering to hard and fast rules, clinical recommendations should consider a woman's current health status, her current age in conjunction with her desires regarding child spacing and ultimate family size, and particularly following a loss, her emotional readiness to become pregnant again," he wrote.
The March of Dimes has more on stillbirth.