Trends in Birth Spacing

The purpose of this comparative report is to examine the levels and trends of birth intervals as documented in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). The interval between births has been shown in numerous studies to substantially affect the mortality, birth size and weight, and nutritional status of children, and the risk of pregnancy complications for mothers. This report presents information on the lengths of actual and preferred birth intervals, trends in actual and preferred birth intervals, the difference between actual and preferred birth intervals, and trends in the difference. Additionally, the report gives information on the desire for more children and met and unmet need for contraception for spacing births, at the time of the survey. Using the birth history information from the DHS woman’s questionnaire, the study calculates the number of months between births, based on the birth date. This report covers 72 countries with DHS surveys representing 371,768 birth intervals. The latest surveys range in date from 1985 to 2008. Overall, the median birth interval is 32.1 months.

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