Early childhood nutrition, education and fertility milestones in Guatemala.
Data on fertility milestones were collected in 1994 and linked to information collected in a trial conducted in eastern Guatemala between 1969 and 1977, to examine whether early childhood nutrition was associated with the timing of fertility milestones. In the original trial, two pairs of villages were randomly allocated to receive either a high energy, high protein supplement (Atole) or a low energy, no-protein supplement (Fresco). Mean age at follow-up was 23.47 y (n = 240). About 62% of women had experienced first birth (median age at first birth = 19.83 y). The median intervals from menarche to first intercourse and from first intercourse to first birth were 5.67 and 0.95 y; they were 1.68 and 0.06 y shorter, respectively, for the Atole group than for the Fresco group. Women who had received Atole in utero and/or during early childhood experienced earlier milestones even after adjusting for socioeconomic status (SES), education and age at the prior event. Median age at first birth was 1.17 y earlier for the Atole group. Better growth during early childhood (not severely stunted) led to earlier milestones (median age at first birth was 1.04 y earlier), primarily among women with illiterate fathers. Completion of primary school significantly delayed fertility milestones; the median age at first birth was 4.27 y later for those who completed primary school compared with those who did not (P < 0.05). In sum, improved nutrition during early childhood results in earlier fertility milestones, but the effects of schooling in delaying fertility milestones are greater in magnitude. Intervention programs that improve early childhood nutrition should be accompanied by investments in education that ensure that girls complete primary school.
Ramakrishnan, U; Barnhart, H; Schroeder, DG; Stein, AD; Martorell, R
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