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September 1, 2018

Rural teenagers in Pakistan start childbearing earlier than urbanites


September 1, 2018

Islamabad : Rural teenagers tend to start childbearing earlier than urban teenagers. Teenagers with more than a secondary education and those in the highest wealth quintile tend to start childbearing later than those with no education or with lower levels of education and those in other quintiles, states the Key Indicators Report of the 2017-18 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS)

The report, which presents a first look at latest estimates of basic demographic and health indicators, will be followed in December 2018 by a final report presenting comprehensive data analysis. The 2017-18 PDHS has been implemented by the National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) under the aegis of the Ministry of National Health Services.

The issue of adolescent fertility is important for both health and social reasons. Children born to very young mothers are at increased risk of sickness and death. Teenage mothers are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes and to be constrained in their ability to pursue educational opportunities than young women who delay childbearing.

The 2017-18 PDHS documents the percentage of women age 15-19 years who had given birth or were pregnant with their first child at the time of the survey. Overall, 8% of women in the said age bracket had begun childbearing: 6% had had a live birth, and 2% were pregnant at the time of the interview. The proportion of teenagers who had begun childbearing rose rapidly with age, from 1% at age 15 years to 19% at age 19 years. Fifteen percent of teenagers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had begun childbearing as compared with only 6% in Punjab, it informs.

The onset of childbearing has a direct bearing on fertility. Early initiation into childbearing lengthens the reproductive period, which in turn increases the chances of higher fertility. Bearing children at a young age also entails risks to the health of the mother and the child. The report states that the median age at first birth for women aged 25-49 years is 22.8 years, an increase of 0.6 years in the past five years, when it stood at 22.2 years.

In its findings on fertility preference, the 2017-18 PDHS reports that 26% of women want to have another child soon (within the next 2 years), and 16% want to have another child later (after 2 or more years). Thirty-five percent of women want no more children, while 9% have already been sterilized. Therefore, there is a strong desire among 44% of currently married women to limit childbearing, while 16% want to delay childbearing. Nine percent have not decided if they want another child, the report states. Information on fertility preferences is used to assess the potential demand for family planning services for the purpose of spacing or limiting future childbearing.

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