Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 1864–1880 | Cite as

The Effect of Early Marriages and Early Childbearing on Women’s Nutritional Status in India

  • Srinivas Goli
  • Anu Rammohan
  • Deepti Singh


The consequences of early childbearing on the growth and nutritional status of women in India has not been quantified in previous studies. Our study aimed to fill this gap by analysing the association between early marriage and early childbearing on nutritional status of Indian women, with a focus on Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, the two states accounting for the highest proportion of women marrying and giving first birth before 18 years of age. Our findings revealed that a substantial number of women were married before 18 years and thereby exposed to early pregnancy. Furthermore, a significantly higher proportion of women in the ‘thin’ category were married before 18 years, both in the Indian sample (33 %, p < 0.001) and in the selected states, Andhra Pradesh (31 %, p < 0.001) and Bihar (43 %, p < 0.001), compared to those women married at higher ages. Similarly, across all our samples women whose first birth was before age 18 years also had a significantly higher probability of being in the ‘thin’ category across all our samples. This pattern was also observed for associations between early childbirth and anemia levels. We conclude that the net effect of the early age at marriage and age at first birth on nutritional status is significant. Our results underline the need for preventing early marriages and the consequent high adolescent pregnancies in India, particularly in high prevalence states. This will help to improve nutritional status and health care utilisation among women, thereby, prevent maternal and child mortality and thus, achieve the MDGs 4–5.


Early marriage Early childbearing Nutritional status Women India 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies, Centre for the Study of Regional Development (CSRD), School of Social Sciences (SSS)Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)New DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsThe University of Western Australia (M251)CrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.International Institute for Population SciencesMumbaiIndia

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