When Was Your Last Birth? A Study of the Open Birth Interval

John Ross, Futures Group International
Kristin Bietsch, Avenir Health
Emily Sonneveldt , Avenir Health

The simple question. “How long has it been since your last birth” differentiates women in a fundamental manner, by the age of their youngest child. This “open interval” shows a characteristic pattern that varies by age, number of living children, residence, and wealth, but also by use of contraception, the intention to use one, and unmet need. The open interval differentiates women along such stages as postpartum/amenorrhea, exposure to unplanned pregnancies, contraceptive use, unmet need, and infecundity. An older youngest child releases the woman into pursuits other than those of pregnancy and child care; this varies greatly by region. The shape and level of the open interval distribution is closely connected to the fertility rate, based upon the 232 DHS surveys in 74 countries used here. Service programs should examine survey information on numbers of women at these stages for the mix of requirements for personnel, funding, and management attention.

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 Presented in Session 1. Fertility, Family Planning, Sexual Behavior, & Reproductive Health 1