Saturday, April 29, 2017

Raising infant survival rate causes birth rate to drop

Some of the most important means now available for reducing child deaths are also among the most powerful means of reducing births.

Exclusive breastfeeding has a demonstrably significant effect on fertility rates, and WHO studies show a clear relationship between the length of time a woman breastfeeds and birth intervals. In population groups with a contraceptive prevalence of less than 10 per cent, there is an almost linear relationship between the proportion of mothers who breastfeed for 18 months and birth intervals that are greater than 2.5 years.

Promoting knowledge about the importance of timing births and providing the means to act on it is one of the most powerful child survival strategies and also reduces birth rates. Most child deaths happen to mothers who are younger than 18 or older than 35, or who have had more than four children already, or who give birth less than two years after a previous delivery. Children born in developing countries at the end of a birth interval of less than two years are, on average, twice as likely to die in infancy as are children born after a longer interval. According to some studies, as many as a quarter of all infant deaths and a quarter of all maternal deaths could be prevented by the well-informed timing of births (see chart on the following page).

Female empowerment, particularly in terms of education, not only benefits women, but also improves child health and survival. Educated mothers are also more likely to opt for smaller families.