Reproductive pattern, perinatal mortality, and sex preference in rural Tamil Nadu, south India: community based, cross sectional study

B B Nielsen, J Liljestrand, M Hedegaard, S H Thilsted, A Joseph
BMJ: British Medical Journal 1997 May 24, 314 (7093): 1521-4

OBJECTIVES: To study reproductive pattern and perinatal mortality in rural Tamil Nadu, South India.

DESIGN: Community based, cross sectional questionnaire study of 30 randomly selected areas served by health subcentres.

SETTING: Rural parts of Salem District, Tamil Nadu, South India.

SUBJECTS: 1321 women and their offspring delivered in the 6 months before the interview.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Number of pregnancies, pregnancy outcome, spacing of pregnancies, sex of offspring, perinatal and neonatal mortality rates.

RESULTS: 41% of the women (535) were primiparous; 7 women (0.5%) were grand multiparous (> 6 births). The women had a mean age of 22 years and a mean of 2.3 pregnancies and 1.8 live children. The sex ratio at birth of the index children was 107 boys per 100 girls. The stillbirth rate was 13.5/1000 births, the neonatal mortality rate was 35.3/1000, and the perinatal mortality rate was 42.0/1000. Girls had an excess neonatal mortality (rate ratio 3.42%; 95% confidence interval 1.68 to 6.98; this was most pronounced among girls born to multiparous women with no living sons (rate ratio 15.48 (2.04 to 177.73) v 1.87 (0.63 to 5.58) in multiparous women with at least one son alive).

CONCLUSIONS: In this rural part of Tamil Nadu, women had a controlled reproductive pattern. The excess neonatal mortality among girls constitutes about one third of the perinatal mortality rate. It seems to be linked to a preference for sons and should therefore be addressed through a holistic societal approach rather than through specific healthcare measures.


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