Young maternal age, independent of other risk factors, increases the chance of adverse pregnancy outcomes, according to a study in the April 27 New England Journal of Medicine.

Between 1970 and 1990, researchers analyzed birth records of 134,088 first-born infants of white, middle-class Utah women, ages 13 to 24. This group was chosen because other social and behavioral risk factors predicting poor birth outcomes were greatly reduced.

Mothers younger than 17 were twice as likely to have low-birth-weight infants or give birth prematurely, than mothers ages 20 to 24. Mothers ages 18 to 19 had less risk for premature or low-birth-weight infants than the youngest mothers, but more than those ages 20 to 24. Those younger than 17 were also most likely to have an infant small for its gestational age.

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