Teenage pregnancy and its consequences: evidence from rural Bangladesh
Objective: Investigate the factors regarding health of mother and children associated with teenage pregnancy and the consequences of pregnancy for these women who gave birth by their teenage. Methodology: Data for this study came from a longitudinal Sample Registration System (SRS) in two rural sub-districts under the ICDDR.B Operations Research Project, for a two-year period covering January 1995 to December 1996. A total of 6,508 married women of reproductive age (15-49 years) categorized in two groups: those who had their first birth under 20 years of age and those 20 years and above. Children belonging to these two groups of women were also covered in the study. Social and economic status, education, contraceptive practice, and healthcare-seeking behaviour of these women and their family were observed. Both bivariate and multivariate analyses were carried out by considering women who got married at an early or later age as the dependent variable. Results: Preliminary findings indicate that the poor and economically disadvantaged women had their first child earlier compared to the economically advantaged groups. The median age of the women who had their first birth in their teens was 17 years, and for age 20 years and above it was 22. Women who started childbearing early tend to have more children than those who started late. Women who postponed motherhood until after the ten years were more likely to have fewer children and stayed in school longer. Fifty-seven percent of the women who started their child birth before the age of 20 years had experienced at least one child death or pregnancy wastage compared to those who had started child birth at the age of 20 years or later, and 41% had the same experience. Although knowledge of contraceptives was higher among the younger group of women, its practice was higher among the older groups. Delivery attended by trained prsonnel in both groups of women has substantially increased in the study area compared to the national average, but intention to go to the service facilities for delivery did not change neither of the group. More than 90% of the deliveries still occurred at home, irrespective of age. f Conclusion: This study reveals that most women spend, on an average, 10-21 years of their lives carrying for younger children. Teen-aged mother and her children face increased health risks as well as limited social and economic options when compared with older mothers and their children. Young women should be encouraged to go to school and continue their education, and should be targeted for contraceptive use to delay their first pregnancy until the age of 20 years. Efforts should be made to enforce the legal age of marriage.