Health

Study reveals link between teenage pregnancy and child stunting

Adolescent mothers were more likely to be anaemic compared with adult mothers and anaemia was associated with reduced child growth, find the study

 
By Jyoti Singh
Last Updated: Friday 17 May 2019
Study reveals link between teenage pregnancy and child stunting
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

A new study has found that in India stunting and under-weight were 11 percentage points more prevalent in children born to adolescent mothers than those born to adult mothers.

Conducted by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the research also found that there was a strong relationship between teenage pregnancy and child under-nutrition because of several factors including lower educational attainment, poorer nutritional status, less access to health services during antenatal or postnatal period, sub-optimal complementary feeding practices and poorer living conditions of teenage mothers.

The studyis based on data from the fourth round of National Family Health Survey during 2015-16. It was representative at both state and district levels and had covered six lakh households.

It has found that 31 per cent of married women in India gave birth by the age of 18 in 2016 due to societal pressure to consummate the marriage and low knowledge of reproductive health, among other factors. Adolescent mothers were more likely to be anaemic compared with adult mothers and anaemia was associated with reduced child growth. This finding is based on analysis of data relating to 60,097 mother-child pairs.

“As estimated 16 million girls aged 15-19 years give birth annually in the world and 95% of these births occur in low-income and middle-income countries. Reducing adolescent pregnancy can hasten its progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those related to poverty, health, nutrition, general wellbeing, equity, and education," says study co-author, Phuong Hong Nguyen.

Pregnancy and childbirth complications are also leading cause of death among 15-19 year old girls globally. Adolescent pregnancy often results in school dropout affecting young women’s education and income. The prevalence of thinness among Indian women is twice as high in those married before 18 than those married after 24.

"Unfortunately, in India, early marriage and subsequent pregnancy is often not a deliberate choice, but rather the result of an absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl's control," added Purnima Menon, a co-author of the study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

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