Factors influencing women's decisions about pregnancy spacing: Findings from a focus group discussion study


Very short interpregnancy intervals are associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and children, and pregnancies with very short interpregnancy intervals are more likely to be unintended than pregnancies that are more widely spaced. The objective of this study was to improve understanding of women's motivations regarding pregnancy spacing.


In 2017, we conducted 8 focus group discussions with 49 English- and Spanish-speaking postpartum women in central North Carolina. The groups explored participants' preferences for birth spacing and factors that influenced their decisions. We recorded, transcribed, and coded the discussions and analyzed these data for core themes.


Participants' ideas about when and whether to have more children were fluid—some had specific ideas during pregnancy or after delivery that changed over time; others had no definite plans. The primary reason for close birth spacing was to promote their children's having a closer relationship. Reasons for wider spacing included recovery from the previous pregnancy, challenges related to having 2 babies concurrently, and desire to wait for more favorable life circumstances. Participants did not mention health risks to children of short interpregnancy intervals and said that no health care providers discussed these risks with them. They had mixed perspectives about whether this information would influence their own child-spacing preferences but agreed that it should be shared with women to promote informed decision-making.


This study adds to limited research regarding the factors that women consider when determining pregnancy spacing. Better understanding of women's motivations can help inform counseling to help women achieve their desired pregnancy spacing.