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Malnutrition Studied in Babies Born to Child Brides

Research suggests early marriage may affect distribution of food in families

FRIDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Babies born to women who were married as minors are at higher risk of malnutrition than those whose mothers were married at majority age, according to a study published online Jan. 21 in BMJ.

Anita Raj, Ph.D., of the Boston University of Public Health, and colleagues collected data on 124,385 women aged 15 to 49 years in India, including information reported by the participants on child morbidity and mortality. They analyzed the 19,302 births to 13,396 women aged 15 to 24 years who had ever been married.

In all, the researchers found that 73 percent of the births were to women who were married as minors; and, the odds of stunting and underweight were 22 and 24 percent higher, respectively, among babies born to women who were below majority age upon marriage. The authors further note that maternal child marriage did not have an impact on boys' health versus that of girls.

"In view of previous evidence that child brides are often more controlled by husbands and in-laws, it may be that women married as minors are unable to advocate for adequate nutrition for their children, perhaps in the context of their own limited access to food," Raj and colleagues write. "The current findings suggest that the effects of inadequate fetal nutrition and reduced breast-feeding among neonates born to adolescent mothers extend into infancy and early childhood."

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