2011 International Conference on Family Planning
29 November–2 December 2011
"Delaying first pregnancy: Intentions and realities among young women in India"
In India, women are expected to bear a child as soon as possible after marriage, and childbearing takes place in childhood for many. Nationally, just 10% of married young women (15–24 years) practised contraception before first birth and 29% of married young women aged 20–24 had their first birth before their 18th birthday. However, there is little documentation of young people’s preferences regarding the timing of first pregnancy and the extent to which they have been able to realize their intentions. This paper examines the extent to which married young women in India desire to delay their first pregnancy and practise contraception before first pregnancy. The paper also explores the extent to which those who desired to delay their first pregnancy manage to do so and the factors correlated with delayed pregnancy.
The paper draws on data from a sub-nationally representative study of young people conducted during 2006–08 in six states of India. Findings are presented from a sample of 13,549 married young women aged 15–24 who had begun cohabiting at the time of the interview. Those who became pregnant after one year of marriage and those who did not become pregnant till the time of the interview were considered to have delayed their first pregnancy. Multi-variate logistic regression analysis was conducted to explore factors correlated with delaying first pregnancy.
Half of young women preferred to delay their first pregnancy. However, just 5% of all women and 8% of those who desired to delay first pregnancy had practised contraception before the first pregnancy. Of those who preferred to delay first pregnancy and had cohabited for at least one year, 56% became pregnant within a year of marriage, 30% became pregnant after one year and 13% did not become pregnant till the time of the interview. Young women’s awareness of contraception before marriage and decision-making autonomy were positively correlated with delaying first pregnancy, while delayed cohabitation, large spousal age difference and experience of marital violence were inversely correlated.
Findings show that a large proportion of young women desired to delay their first pregnancy; special efforts are required that enable these women to realize their intentions through information provision, counseling and contraceptive supplies. Women who experience marital violence and lack autonomy are particularly constrained and are in need of special service delivery mechanisms.
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