Healthy Birth Spacing

Healthy Birth Spacing

Data highlight

 Oklahoma ranks 49 (of 51) for healthy birth spacing. Rhode Island ranks first with 90.3% percent of women experiencing birth spacing between eighteen months and 5 years, and Arkansas has the most room for improvement with only 12.6 percent of women experiencing healthy birth spacing.


Percentage of mothers who had a second birth within an interval of 18 months or less.

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Birth spacing refers to the time from one child’s birth until the next pregnancy, also known as the interpregnancy interval. 18 months is generally considered adequate time for a next pregnancy to occur. 

The data represent the number of births to women who previously had a live birth less than 18 months previous. The data sometimes refer to lack of healthy birth spacing as rapid repeat births. 

Why we care

Pregnancies that start less than 18 months after a previous birth are associated with delayed prenatal care and adverse birth outcomes. These unfavorable birth outcomes include preterm birth, neonatal morbidity, and low birthweight. In addition, children born without at least 18 months of birth spacing are at greater risk of developing asthma, vision and hearing loss, and may experience developmental delays. 

Furthermore, repeat pregnancies can take a huge toll on the physical and psychological health of teen mothers. Studies have found that children of teen parents are at a greater risk than children of older parents for a host of social, economic and health-related problems.

 Each year nearly 1 in 5 teen births in the US are repeat births.  15.1% of teen births in 2020 were to a mother (age 15-19) who had one or more previous live births

Oklahoma continues to have one of the largest percent of subsequent teen births in the nation. In Oklahoma, roughly 37% of teens less than 20 years old reported using birth control  at the time they got pregnant, however 85.2% reported to be using birth control postpartum. 

During 2010 – 2016, over 38% of teen mothers had a repeat birth within 18 months and 56% had a repeat birth within 24 months.  Teen mothers with less than high school education had a significantly  higher percent of rapid repeat births compared to mothers with more education. Teen moms living in rural areas also had a slightly higher percent  of rapid repeat births compared to those living in urban areas of Oklahoma

What we can do:

This issue brief was written by Metriarch staff as part of our Data Lookbook. Contributions and peer review were provided by Alice Blue with Take Control Initiative. 

Suggested citation
 Metriarch. “Maternal and Child Health,” Data Lookbook (2024). URL:

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