Want Another? Deciding Whether and When to Have Another Child

new baby

Many factors go into the decision to have more children, including the mother's age and family finances.

by Kathryn Sucich

Nicole Downing of Tewksbury, Massachusetts knows firsthand how tough parenting can be. Her 20-month-old daughter, Sarah, has already been treated for a number of medical conditions, including a hip problem and allergies to eggs, dairy and nuts.

Some parents might feel overwhelmed after having one child who requires so much attention. But Nicole and her husband, Michael Downing, are considering having another child in the near future.

When it comes to whether and when to have more children, there is no standard approach to making the decision. What's right for one family may be impossible for another, says Sandra Dupcak, a Framingham, MA-based clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children and families. In her practice, Dupcak sees couples like the Downings who are emotionally ready to handle another child within a couple of years of their first. Other couples need to wait four or five years - or even stop having children altogether - because they just can't handle the extra pressure, especially when one child requires special care.

"It's so dependent on the parents," Dupcak says. "What's stressful for one set of parents isn't for another."

For most parents, deciding whether and when or have another child is a careful balance - a weighing of the responsibilities involved, health considerations, older children's desire to have another sibling, and often a gut feeling. One thing is for sure: it's a decision that most parents don't take lightly.

Pregnancy Considerations

Say that you are leaning toward having more than one child. There's a lot of medical research on the optimal spacing of childbirths for both mother's and baby's health. A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that mothers should space their pregnancies 18 to 59 months apart to reduce risks of preterm birth and low-birth-weight babies.

Of course, moms have their own ideas about healthy spacing between babies. Kathy Woolfrey, 31, a mom of two, has had two easy pregnancies so far, but says she needs time to recuperate between having children. As a physical therapist, she's required to do heavy lifting and bending on the job that can be difficult both during and after pregnancy.

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