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IPPF Med Bull. 1985 Aug;19(4):2-4.

Health aspects of early marriage and reproductive patterns.



Some of the most compelling World Fertility Survey (WFS) findings for 40 developing countries are those dealing with fertility and related factors that influence maternal and child health. Mother's age at 1st marriage and at birth of the 1st child, intervals between consecutive births (spacing), and birth order, among other factors have been found to have a strong bearing upon a child's chances of surviving infancy and early childhood. The WFS data also indicate that these factors, in addition to the total number of children ever born to a woman, affect the mother's health. The WFS surveys also provide information for identifying the service needs of young married people and highlight the importance and need for such services. The WFS surveys verified that early marriages are associated with very early childbearing and achievement of large families by the end of the reproductive period. It can also be implied from the data that, because of presumed juvenile infertility, the early years of adolescent marriages are often barren and may be followed by later infecundity. Girls who marry or begin sexual intercourse before or around puberty, i.e., under age 15, tend to experience a longer interval between marriage or conjugal union and 1st birth than do their counterparts who marry later. Early marriage also influences the well-being of children. Babies born to mothers who were under age 20 (or over 39) at the time of their birth have poorer chances of surviving the first 5 years than do those whose mothers were 20-39 years of age when they were born. Infant mortality is exceptionally high among babies whose mothers were under age 15 at the time of their birth. In many countries, primarily on the Indian subcontinent and in sub-Saharan Africa, where women marry and have their 1st child at an early age, the 1st born is the child least likely to survive infancy and early childhood. The WFS data provide compelling, robust evidence that the length of the inter-birth interval is a stronger determinant of infant and early childhood mortality than many of the other explanatory variables examined. In each region, infants born at short intervals have considerably higher mortality than better (longer) spaced children. The association between the conditions created by child marriages, harmful reproductive patterns, infecundity, and infant and child mortality sets important tasks for the family planning movement while arming its workers with strong arguments for planned parenthood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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