Planned Pregnancies are Best for Mother and Child

Children and youthGender equalityHealth


We all want healthy children. For several programs now we have been talking about how children are healthier if they are born at least 2 years apart. Waiting at least 2 years between pregnancies is also better for the health of the mother.

“But wait,” you say. “We’ve been talking about having healthier children. Why are we suddenly talking about healthier mothers?” Well, it turns out that being a healthy mother is the best way to assure having healthy children.

Children do better if their mother is alive to take care of them. In Yemen, a country in the Middle East, almost two out of three infants died within a year of their mother’s death. In other words, if 3 women with babies died, 2 of the babies would soon die, too. So when we are talking about having healthier children, we must also talk about having healthier mothers. And it is vital for a mother’s health that she and her husband make sure to wait at least 2 years between pregnancies.

That is because having children pregnancy, labour and breast feeding is also hard on the mother’s health.

Giving birth to a baby is difficult. There is always bleeding. If the woman has weak blood – a condition doctors call anemia, or iron poor blood – the normal bleeding during labour weakens her more than it would a person with healthy blood. The result is that the more babies she has, the weaker she gets.

Is this a problem in your family? Probably. Half the women and girls in Southern countries like ours are anemic, and it is even more common among those who are pregnant. Forty percent of pregnancies in countries like ours result in complications, illness, or permanent disability. To put it another way, for every 10 pregnancies in a village, four could end tragically. One woman dies every minute from problems during pregnancy, labour or abortion.

But even after safe delivery of a baby, there are many demands on a mother that threaten her health. When a woman is pregnant or breast feeding, she must eat enough for two people. A woman should gain one kilogram of weight for every month of pregnancy. But often there isn’t that much food. The mother becomes malnourished, the baby will be weakened,and it is more likely to die; if it lives, it is likely to be sickly. And the malnourished mother is also more likely to die or be sickly herself.

But if the woman waits 2 years before she gets pregnant again, her body will have enough time to recover from the earlier pregnancy.

Also, her last born child will be weaned. The food she eats will then benefit her more than it could when she was breast feeding, and she can build up her strength.

So you can see why waiting at least 2 years between pregnancies is so important to the mother’s health. And remember, a healthy mother is likely to produce a healthy child.


  • This script was prepared by Katie Gillmor Ellis, Toronto, Canada.
  • This script was reviewed by:
    Dr. Helen Gordon, Waterloo, Canada
    Dr. Ivan Roma, Toronto, Canada
    Cecilia Blanco, Director of Publications, Profamilia, Bogotá, Colombia
    Anne Tinker, Senior Health Specialist, World Bank, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
  • The publication of this script was made possible through the generous support of the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada.

Information sources

  • My name is today, David Morley and Hermione Lovel, 1986, 359pp., Tropical Child Health Unit, Institute of Child Health, University of London, MacMillan Publishers.
  • Safe motherhood action kit, 1992, Family Care International, 588 Broadway, Suite 510, New York, New York 10012, U.S.A. Also available in French and Spanish.
  • Where there is no doctor, David Werner, 1992, 446pp. The Hesperian Foundation, P.O. Box 1692, Palo Alto, California 94302, U.S.A.
  • Population Reports, The Johns Hopkins University, Center for Communication Programs, School of Hygiene and Public Health, 111 Market Place, Suite 310, Baltimore, Maryland, 21205, U.S.A. This is a series of reports on family planning and reproductive health available in English, French, Spanish, with some issues in Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian. They are sent free to developing countries.
  • Who is a responsible man?, Volume 12, Number 4E, 8pp., World Neighbors in Action, World Neighbors International Headquarters, 5116 North Portland Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73112, U.S.A. Demography, The Population Association of America, 1722 North St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 2983, U.S.A.
  • Facts for life, Peter Adamson, 1993, pages 1 15. UNICEF, UNICEF House DH 40, Facts for Life Unit, 3 UN Plaza, New York NY 10017, U.S.A.