pregnancy

New Data Shows Larger Gaps Between Siblings. Should We Be Thinking About our Prenatal Support Needs Differently?

Hillary Bennetts

New Data Shows Larger Gaps Between Siblings. Should We Be Thinking About our Prenatal Support Needs Differently?

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • Why Are There Bigger Gaps Between The Ages of Children?
  • What Types of Supplements Should We Continue to Take? 
  • What Else Can We Do To Continue to Support our Fertility? 
  • The Bottom Line

0 min read

Intro

Research has found that parents are increasingly opting for larger gaps between children. Siblings with a several-year age gap were once considered uncommon, and even unusual, but this has changed in recent years. A 2020 study found that from 1967 to 2017, the average time between sibling births increased by almost a full year. Siblings are now, on average, 4.2 years apart. 

There are several theories as to why this is happening. But at Needed we also want to explore how this trend might impact prenatal and postpartum nutrition and health. Is a larger gap between children more favorable for women and our bodies recovery from depletion?

Why are there bigger gaps between the ages of children? 

There are several reasons why parents may wait longer between having siblings. Some of the most likely scenarios include the following:

  1. Career priorities: As much as it hurts to say, having a baby can be hard on a career. From coordinating childcare to impaired cognitive function, it can be a challenge to balance priorities as a working parent, and some people consider their career impact when planning for children.
  2. Partner switching: Research suggests that people are having children with different partners, which can impact timing. Today, among parents with at least two kids, about 20.6 percent have had those children with different people. The same study suggests that having children with multiple partners adds an additional 1.6 years to the space between sibling births. 
  3. Availability of contraceptives: Contraceptives help women control the timing of their children, and they are more available now than they were a few decades ago.
  4. Cost: It costs a lot of money to raise a child. Estimates range from $200,000 to more than $400,000 during their first 18 years of life. Actual costs depend on many factors, like location, childcare and education choices, and more. Some parents may choose to spread these costs over more years. For example, they may wait to have another child until their first is through the costly early daycare or nanny years.
  5. Fewer children overall: The average childbearing person in the U.S. had 2.6 children in 1967, that number has dropped to 1.7 children. There is simply more flexibility to space out kids when parents are having fewer of them in the first place.

Can the bigger gaps actually be positive for mothers' health? 

The good news is that a bigger gap between children may actually be beneficial for a mothers’ health. Here’s why:

Postpartum depletion

Pregnancy and postpartum are among the most nutritionally demanding phases of life. Many women find themselves feeling depleted or deficient in at least one nutrient after having a baby. More time between kids allows the body to recover and restore before entering the same phase all over again. Depletion can impact subsequent babies, too. If another baby is in close succession, the mother’s nutrient reserves may be depleted which may increase the risk in the second child of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and adversely affect infant nutrient stores at birth.

Thyroid concerns

Pregnancy puts tremendous stress on your thyroid gland as it ramps up production of hormones by more than 50% to support baby’s thyroid and brain development. Underactive thyroid is common in postpartum and can lead to fatigue, difficulty losing weight, difficulty conceiving, and increased risk of miscarriage in subsequent pregnancies. 

But thyroid symptoms can be easily misinterpreted as typical fatigue that comes with postpartum or raising a young child. More time between children can help ensure that a woman gets other health issues addressed before a second pregnancy, when they might become worse.

Emotional Health Struggles

Hormonal shifts and major life changes and family dynamics can take a toll on the emotional well-being of parents. A narrow gap between babies can intensify some of the struggles around anxiety and mood.

More Sibling Support

While an older sibling that is close in age still requires a lot of care and attention, older kids can be a bit more independent. They can talk and communicate, and can even help with younger babies. This can also help support mom’s mental health. 

Research has also found that siblings with a larger age gap tend to have fewer fights and less intense rivalries. When they are older, they may be more likely to listen to each other. A study from 1973 found that younger siblings are more likely to take the advice of a sibling who is four years older than one who is just two years older. More recent research has even suggested that a larger age gap can lead to an increased ability to defuse conflict.

What Types of Supplements Should We Continue to Take?

Regardless of when you plan to have another child, it is wise to continue taking your prenatal vitamins. In addition to a comprehensive Prenatal Multi, continue to take your Omega-3 which is supportive for all ages and stages of life. You might also consider a Pre/Probiotic to support gut health for you and your future baby or babies. It might feel like a long time to take prenatal supplements, but it can support the health of both you and your baby for years to come.

What Else Can we do to Continue to Support our Fertility? 

Longer gaps between children can mean that parents are older when they have subsequent children. Healthy pregnancies are possible at older ages, but additional support can be helpful at any age. Both women and men can benefit potent antioxidant support, as is offered in Egg Quality Support and Sperm Support. Both partners can also benefit from CoQ10 


In addition, remember that lifestyle factors can contribute to overall health and fertility outcomes. Limit alcohol and excess sugar, engage in regular movement, practice stress management techniques, and work to reduce the toxic burden in the products that you use. 

The Bottom Line

No matter what age gap you end up with, remember to prioritize your health and nutrition throughout your journey. Your future self and your future children will thank you!
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Hillary Bennetts, Nutritionist

Hillary Bennetts is a nutritionist and business consultant focusing on prenatal and postpartum health. In addition to nutrition consulting, she provides business consulting and content creation for companies in the health and wellness industry. Hillary spent almost a decade in corporate consulting before shifting gears to combine her lifelong passion for health and wellness with her business background and nutrition education.