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FOCUS Brief 4: Postponing First and Second Births among Young Marrieds

Marriage is recognized primarily as a civil or religious union, marking the beginning of socially acceptable sexual relations and family formation. In most countries, childbearing is socially
acceptable only within marriage. Therefore, families and society expect first pregnancies to occur soon after marriage. Since in many, if not most, societies, children and parenthood are highly valued, newly married young couples are expected to have their first child within the first year of their union. Among developing countries, the proportion of young married girls who bear a child before age 20 varies widely from one place to another. In some of these countries, the proportion may reach as high as two-thirds, whereas in others it may be as low as one in five girls giving birth before age 20. In Bangladesh, for example, the median age of marriage for girls is 17, and approximately 50 percent of young women have children by age 19. Married adolescent girls are usually married to men who are much older than they. In some cases, married adolescent girls delay childbearing in order to complete their education or to remain employed. The most important factor for postponing first and second birth among young marrieds is related to the adverse effects of early pregnancy on mother’s health. In addition, in countries where fertility is high, postponing births among young married significantly reduces the size of the total population. Findings from operations research studies suggest that behavior-change communication interventions had motivated young marrieds to delay the first pregnancy.

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