The proportion of women aged 15 to 19 years who were mothers or were pregnant decreased by an average of 5.26 percentage points over a decade, data from the fourth National Family Health Survey or NFHS-4 shows.
The NFHS-4 report, which was released last month, is based on 114 questions posed to over 5 lakh households across the country, and data for 13 states and two union territories was released in the first phase.
There is a direct correlation between the rate of female literacy and child marriage rate, as IndiaSpend reported earlier. Increase in child-bearing age implies better maternal and child health outcomes.
Here, we look at the six worst states (excluding Andhra Pradesh, because the state was bifurcated since NFHS-3). Among these, Tripura and Meghalaya cannot be compared to the rest, as the northeast states are very different in topography, demographics and infrastructure, as IndiaSpend reported in a three-part series.
Among the large states, Bihar saw the biggest decrease in percentage of women who were mothers or were pregnant, from 25% in 2005-06 (during NFHS-3) to 12.2% in 2014-15. There was a corresponding decrease in the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR; deaths per 1,000 live-births) from 61 to 28.
Even a marginal decrease has a substantial impact on IMR. For instance, West Bengal saw a drop in IMR from 48 to 27 in the same time period, despite a marginal decrease in the percentage of women aged 15-19 years who were mothers or were pregnant (from 25.3% to 18.3%).
This also means that there are other reasons for the decrease in IMR, such as pre-natal care, institutional deliveries, etc, according to an IndiaSpend analysis.
In general, the urban areas had a lesser percentage of teenage mothers than rural areas. However, the gap between the urban and rural figures has reduced over the decade in most states.
For instance, West Bengal had the highest reduction in the rural-urban gap (10.5 percentage points). However, it is currently the state with the largest rural-urban gap (8.2 percentage points). West Bengal also has the highest percentage of teenage mothers in both rural and urban areas, at 20.6% and 12.4% respectively.