To examine the effect of short (<36 months) and long (≥60 months) birth intervals on adverse pregnancy outcomes in Bangladesh.
Design, setting and participants
We analysed data from six Bangladesh Demographic and Health Surveys (1996–1997, 1999–2000, 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2014). We included all singleton non-first live births, most recently born to mothers within 5 years preceding each survey (n=21 382). We defined birth interval according to previous research which suggests that a birth interval between 36 and 59 months is the most ideal interval. Bivariate and multivariable analyses were conducted to obtain the crude and adjusted ORs (aOR) respectively to assess the odds of first-day neonatal death, early neonatal death and small birth size for both short (<36 months) and long (≥60 months) spacing between births.
Main outcome measures
First-day neonatal death, early neonatal death and small birth size.
In the multivariable analysis, compared with births spaced 36–59 months, infants with a birth interval of <36 months had increased odds of first-day neonatal death (aOR: 2.11, 95% CI: 1.17 to 3.78) and early neonatal death (aOR: 1.58, 95% CI: 1.13 to 2.22). Compared with births spaced 36–59 months, infants with a birth interval of ≥60 months had increased odds of first-day neonatal death (aOR: 2.02, 95% CI: 1.10 to 3.73) and small birth size (aOR: 1.17, 95% CI: 1.02 to 1.34). When there was a history of any previous pregnancy loss, there was an increase in the odds of first-day and early neonatal death for both short and long birth intervals, although it was not significant.
Birth intervals shorter than 36 months and longer than 59 months are associated with increased odds of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Care-providers, programme managers and policymakers could focus on promoting an optimal birth interval between 36 and 59 months in postpartum family planning.
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