Context: Because of high levels of early childbearing in developing countries, pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among women aged 15-19. Use of skilled antenatal and delivery care improves maternal outcomes through the prevention, management and treatment of obstetric complications, and infant immunizations prevent many childhood diseases.
Methods: Logistic regression analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data for 15 developing countries examined adolescents' use of antenatal care, delivery care and infant immunization services compared with use by older women.
Results: In general, the use of maternal and child health care did not vary by mother's age. In five of the 15 countries, women aged 18 or younger were less likely than women aged 19-23 to use either antenatal care or delivery care, or both (odds ratios, 0.5-0.9). Younger mothers in six countries were less likely than older mothers to have their infants immunized, particularly for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus and for measles (0.5-0.8). The association of age and health care use was largely limited to Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Peru and Uganda. In Latin America, controlling for parity allowed differences between adolescents and older women to emerge. Except in Uganda, there were no differences in health care use by mother's age in the African countries.
Conclusion: Country-specific investigations are needed in Asia to better understand the reasons for differences in service use by age. In general, further systematic evidence would help identify long-term interventions that will be most effective in increasing adolescents' use of maternal and child health services.