Health risks to infants & children

Early childbearing increases the risks for both mothers and their newborns, and the younger the mother, the greater the risk to the baby. In low- and middle-income countries, babies born to mothers under 20 years of age face a 50 per cent higher risk of being stillborn or dying in the first few weeks than infants of mothers aged 20-29. The rates of preterm birth and low birth weight are also higher among the children of very young mothers, all of which increase the chance of death and of future health problems for the baby. Every year, about one million children born to adolescent mothers do not make it to their first birthday.


This is the story of Rabeya & Kushum

Rabeya is 16 years old & Kushum is 3 years old

Rabeya got married at 13 and lives with her three-year old daughter, her husband and her in-laws in a rural area in Bangladesh. During her three pregnancies, she lost a lot of weight and suffered from anemia. Only one of her children has survived.

I'm very happy to be Kushum’s mother. I like when she's sleeping safely in my lap. She sleeps with me all the time; if she doesn’t, I feel empty. It was hard when she was a baby. Then I had to feed her and keep her in my arms all the time. Now everyone takes care of her and plays with her. She's the only child in the family so everyone adores her.

I didn't realize when I got pregnant the first time at 13. I threw up and often felt sick. Then the others told me that I was pregnant. I became very thin, like a stick. So even though the size of my belly grew, I was losing weight. I even used to faint while I was cooking.

I had no knowledge about sexual education or family planning. I didn't have any interest in learning about that. My mother and sister explained it to me but I cannot talk about these things with my husband.

Since I was 13, I have been pregnant three times. Kushum is my first daughter and the only one who survived. When she just started walking, I got pregnant again but the baby died inside me. Then last year, I had a third daughter but she was born with a severe illness and died when she was only three months old.

After I lost my baby last year, my aunt told me to go to the local health center and get contraceptive injections. Since then I haven’t had a period. I feel much better and I'm gaining weight. I don’t want to have any more children. I don’t have any more energy. I'm happy with my one child and thankfully my husband agrees.

Now, after three years, I understand a little more about marriage. Marriage is a combination of good and bad. My husband is a very nice man. Before I was married I dreamed of becoming a teacher. As I'm married now and have a family, nobody is going to help. I have to manage my own household. My dream, though, is that my child, my husband and I buy our own house where we’re happy.

For Kushum, I dream big. When she grows up, I want her to know she can do anything she wants. I want to give her everything.

“I have been pregnant three times since I was 13. Kushum is my first daughter and the only one who survived.”

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