by Michael Woodhead
Chinese women reach puberty earlier, have children later, have more abortions and are much less likely to breastfeed than their mother's and grandmother's generations, a major new study has shown.
The generational changes in Chinese women's reproductive factors have been shown in data the China Kadoorie Biobank cohort study that recruited 300 000 women born between
1930 and 1974 from 10 urban and
rural regions of China
The findings showed that the average age that women started menstruating declined from 16.1 years of age to 14.3 years.
Not surprisingly given the one child policy, the average number of children Chinese women had fell from five to one (from six to one in rural areas). The average
age at first birth increased from 19 years to 26 years in cities and from 18 to 24 in rural areas.
Breastfeeding rates and duration of breastfeeding also showed major declines in both urban and rural women.
The proportion of women having an abortion increased so that 68% of urban and 48% of
women had a pregnancy terminated after 1980.
The average age for onset of menopause increased from 48 to 49.3 years.
The researchers said the changes not only affected women's reproductive health but also may have an influence on their risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease rates.
The findings are published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.