Nutritional Benefits of Birth Spacing


Birth spacing has been pointed by health care experts as a crucial measure in saving the lives of mothers and children. It is usually overlooked by some societies even though it is vehemently linked to stunting, a salient characteristic of under nutrition. Nevertheless, most health care experts have been advocating for a birth interval of 24 months. New research reveals that an even longer birth spacing interval (3-5 years) can enhance the health of mothers and their children as well as give the family financial space.

Birth spacing is influenced by various factors. One of the most influential factors especially in the African setup is the cultural factors.

  • In an African setting, a woman’s worth is measured by her fertility and the ability to give birth soon after marriage and subsequent pregnancies.
  • Social, cultural and structural barriers greatly influence birth spacing. Some cultures and religions prohibit the use of artificial family planning methods, hence preventing healthy birth spacing. In addition, limited awareness especially in rural areas where literacy levels and access to information is poor also impedes healthy birth intervals. Availability and cost of contraceptives hinder some women from spacing their children and other refuse to use them due to misconceptions such as when you use IUD (intra-uterine device) you cannot get pregnant again.

Birth spacing is of importance because:

  • It gives the mother time to rebuild nutrition stores lost in the previous births such as iron, protein, vitamins, energy and folic acid. This ensures that the mother remains healthy and the baby is growing and developing normally. The body takes some time to replace these nutrient stores, hence the importance of birth spacing. Sufficient nutrition is very crucial before, during and after pregnancy.
  • It leads to successful pregnancy nutrition wise as the mother is healthy.
  • It also benefits other siblings because the mother has enough resources, both material and time to tend to them.

Having children at one year interval or less places the mother and the child at a great health risk. The mother’s body has no time to replace or build nutrient stores necessary for sustaining a pregnancy. As a result, the mother is generally weak and may experience ante natal, prenatal and post natal risks. Similarly, the child may be born premature, underweight and possibly with physical deformities such as spina bifida. Research has shown that a child born in a less than a year interval after the previous birth is likely to be autistic.

Women require folic acid throughout their lives particularly before and during a pregnancy. This helps prevent some of birth defects such as spina bifida (malformation of a child’s spinal cord). It is recommended that women take vitamins and take healthy foods before birth in order for them and their unborn children to grow and develop well. Therefore poor birth spacing interferes with the availability of essential nutrients.

In a bid to space births, some women choose to give birth when they are under 18 or extend birth to over 35 years. If one is less than 18 years of age, there will be competition of nutrients between the mother and the foetus. If one is above 35 years, she is at an increased risk of experiencing complications such as miscarriages, abnormal labour that may lead to caesarean delivery besides birth defects such as autism.

The health of the mother and the child is greatly improved when there is a birth space of at least 2 years. Health wise, it is recommended that a woman should not carry more than four pregnancies in her lifetime. This is because the mother may experience ante natal, prenatal and post natal risks such as postpartum haemorrhage and eclampsia. Consequently, the child may be born premature, underweight or with physical deformities.

Encouraging mothers to space birth through educational awareness and family planning services can help in minimizing child under nutrition incidents, enhance maternal health and afford healthy childhood development. Birth spacing should be a key factor when strategizing on reducing under nutrition since it plays a big role in reflecting nutritional status of children under five years of age. In addition, birth spacing is a critical factor that determines other aspects of a healthy family.


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