A new study finds that women may not have to wait 6 months after pregnancy loss to try to conceive again. The finding contrasts current World Health Organization (WHO) guidance, which says waiting is important.
The cohort study, published in PLOS Medicine, looked at data on just over 49,000 births after miscarriage and nearly 24,000 after induced abortion in Norway between 2008 and 2016. (The study was conducted by a research team in Australia, though.)
Researchers say conceiving within 3 months after either type of pregnancy loss wasn’t linked to having adverse outcomes in future pregnancies.
Getting pregnant within 3 months isn’t linked to adverse outcomes
The current WHO guidelines are based on somewhat scarce evidence, the study authors say. They attempted to investigate the risk of a shorter pregnancy interval on birth outcomes, and found there were lower risks for being small at gestational age in babies conceived in less than 6 months compared to those who were conceived 6 to 11 months after miscarriage. There was a lower risk of gestational diabetes in women who conceived within 3 months of a miscarriage.
The results were similar for those who had abortions. There was a slight increased risk for the baby being smaller for gestational age in those who got pregnant within 3 months of the procedure, while the risk of being large for gestational age was lower in the group that waited between 3 and 5 months.
There were no signs of being at high risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes in women who waited more than 12 months after both types of pregnancy loss (though there was a slight increased risk that the pregnant person would have gestational diabetes).
Time for new guidelines?
So, will the WHO give their guidelines another look? The researchers are hoping so.
“Based on this study and others, we called for a review of the existing World Health Organization recommendations for pregnancy spacing following pregnancy loss,” they said in a statement.
Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a gynecologist and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine, tells Healthline that the WHO guidance is based on old data that wasn’t overwhelming in terms of proving that the 6-month wait was needed.
She says she usually advises women to wait after a pregnancy loss to try to get pregnant, but that’s so the body can heal and menstrual cycles resume.
Previous research says waiting 6 months isn’t necessary
This isn’t the only research that nixes the 6-month mark.
A 2016 study by the National Institutes of Health said couples that conceived within 3 months of pregnancy loss had the same chances if not greater to have a live birth. The same conclusion held true in a 2012 study–so the notion of not waiting 6 months isn’t anything new.
There’s another reason why women may not want to follow the 6-month waiting period guidance: Time.
That is, if you’re trying to become pregnant, you may be up against the clock. Six months can be a long window when timing is everything. So at least now you know that you may not need to wait as long as you thought to try again. As always, definitely consult with your doctor to determine what’s right for your unique situation..
National Institutes of Health. Trying to conceive after a pregnancy loss.
DaVanzo J., et al. How long after a miscarriage should women wait before becoming pregnant again? Multivariate analysis of cohort data from Matlab, Bangladesh. BMJ Open, 2012. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001591.
Schliep, K, et al. Trying to Conceive After an Early Pregnancy Loss: An Assessment on How Long Couples Should Wait. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2016. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000001159.
Tessema, G., et al. Interpregnancy interval and adverse pregnancy outcomes among pregnancies following miscarriages or induced abortions in Norway (2008–2016): A cohort study. PLOS Medicine, 2022. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1004129