A new study examined the links between teenage pregnancy and child undernutrition in India. It stated that Children born to teenage mothers are more likely to be undernourished than children of adult mothers India is home to more stunted children than any other country and is one of the ten countries with the largest burden of teenage pregnancy.
Although marriage before 18 years is illegal in India, the 2016 National Family and Health Survey (NFHS)-4 revealed that 27 percent of girls are married before their 18th birthday and further, 31 percent of married Indian women give birth by the age of 18. The study found that stunting and underweight prevalence were 10 percentage points higher in children born to adolescent mothers than in children born to adult mothers.
Compared to adult mothers, teenage mothers were shorter, more likely to be underweight and anemic, less likely to access health services and had poorer complementary feeding practices. They also had lower education, less bargaining power and lived in poorer households with poorer sanitation. Policies and programs to delay marriage can potentially help break the intergenerational cycle of undernutrition through many routes. 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.