Background: Longer intervals between consecutive births decrease the number of children a woman can have. This results in beneficial effects on population size and on the health status of mothers and children. Therefore, understanding the practice of birth interval and its determinants is helpful to design evidence based strategies for interventions. The objective of this study was to determine duration and determinants of birth interval among women of child bearing age in Lemo district, southern Ethiopia in March 2010.
Methods: A community based cross sectional study design with stratified multistage sampling technique was employed. A sample of 844 women of child bearing age were selected by using simple random sampling technique after complete census was conducted in selected kebeles prior to data collection. Structured interviewer administered questionnaire was used for data collection. Actual birth interval was measured with the respondents' memory since majority of the women or their children in the area had no birth certificate.
Results: Majority (57%) of women were practicing short birth interval length with the median birth interval length of 33 months. Actual birth interval length is significantly shorter than preferred birth interval length. Birth interval showed significant variation by contraceptive use, residence, wealth index, breast feeding and occupation of husbands.
Conclusion: low proportion of optimal birth spacing practices with short actual birth interval length and longer preferred birth interval lengths were evident among the study subjects. Hence interventions to enhance contraceptive utilization behaviors among women in Lemo district would be helpful to narrow the gap between optimal and actual birth spacing.