Publications Summary

Document Type
Comparative Reports
Publication Topic(s)
Fertility and Fertility Preferences
Recommended Citation
Rutstein, Shea O. 2001. Trends in Birth Spacing. DHS Comparative Reports No. 28. Calverton, Maryland, USA: ICF Macro.
Download Citation
RIS format / Text format / Endnote format
Publication Date
September 2011
Publication ID

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The purpose of this comparative report is to examine the levels and trends of birth intervals as documented in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). This report presents information on the lengths of actual and preferred birth intervals, trends in actual and preferred birth intervals, the difference between actual and preferred birth intervals, and trends in the difference. Additionally, the report gives information on the desire for more children and met and unmet need for contraception for spacing births, at the time of the survey. Using the birth history information from the DHS woman’s questionnaire, the study calculates the number of months between births, based on the birth date. This report covers 72 countries with DHS surveys representing 371,768 birth intervals. The latest surveys range in date from 1985 to 2008. Overall, the median birth interval is 32.1 months. Overall, almost one in four births occurred after an interval of less than 24 months. Birth intervals between 36 and 59 months entail lower risk. No country has more than half of births occurring in this lower-risk category. Forty-six countries have more than one DHS survey, which allows for the examination of trends in birth intervals. For the 46 countries together, the median length of the birth interval increased by 3.1 months between the first and last surveys.


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