Having children early and in rapid succession are major factors fueling high infant mortality rates in the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan where one in 14 births to young mothers ends with the death of the child within the first year, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Writing in the current online issue of the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Anita Raj, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health at UC San Diego, and colleagues said younger maternal age (under 18 years old) and short intervals between pregnancies (under 24 months) accounted for roughly one-quarter of the infant mortality rate among young mothers in India and Pakistan, a percentage that represents almost 200,000 infant deaths in 2012 for those two nations alone.

In Bangladesh, only the short inter-pregnancy interval was linked to infant mortality while in Nepal, only young motherhood was associated with infant death.