Babies born to child brides in India carry an elevated risk of malnourishment as compared to babies born to older mothers, a paper has revealed.
Anita Raj, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health, led an investigation into 19,000 children born to 13,500 women who had been married between the ages of 15 and 24.
More than 13,000 of the births occurred among child brides, the term for a girl who marries before the age of 18.
A large majority -- 67 percent -- of the child brides' babies were malnourished. They were 22 percent likelier to be stunted and 24 percent likelier to be underweight compared to the children of women aged over 18.
There was no significant difference in birthweight or mortality between the infants of both groups.
The study, published online by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), speculates that child brides get sidelined by husbands and their in-laws and thus cannot lobby for food for their children.
"The findings emphasise the value of delayed childbearing among adolescent wives," says Raj.
"They also reveal the need for targeted intervention efforts to support children born to mothers married as minors."
India has the highest number of under-five deaths in the world. More than 44 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds in India marry before they are 18, and almost a quarter of the same age group have given birth by the time they reach 18.