Fertility Levels, Trends, and Preferences.The total fertility rate (TFR) in Nigeria is 5.7. This means that at current fertility levels, the average Nigerian woman who is at the beginning of her childbearing years will give birth to 5.7 children by the end of her lifetime. Compared with previous national surveys, the 2003 survey
shows a modest decline in fertility over the last two decades: from a TFR of 6.3 in the 1981-82 National Fertility Survey (NFS) to 6.0 in the 1990 NDHS to 5.7 in the 2003 NDHS. However, the 2003 NDHS rate of 5.7 is significantly higher than the 1999 NDHS rate of 5.2. Analysishas shown that the 1999 survey underestimated the
true levels of fertility in Nigeria. On average, rural women will have one more child than urban women (6.1 and 4.9, respectively).
Fertility varies considerably by region of residence, with lower rates in the south and higher rates in north. Fertility also has a strong negative correlation
with a woman’s educational attainment. Most Nigerians, irrespective of their number of living children, want large families. The ideal number of children is 6.7 for all women and 7.3 for currently married women. Nigerian men want even more children than women. The ideal number of children for all men is 8.6 and for currently married men is 10.6. Clearly, one reason for the slow decline in Nigerian fertility is the desire for large families. Birth Intervals. A 36-month interval between
deliveries is best for mother and child; longer birth intervals also contribute to reduction in overall levels of fertility.
The median birth interval in Nigeria is 31 months, which is close to the optimal interval. The median interval is lowest among mothers age 15-19 (26 months) and highest among mothers age 40-49 (39 months). While there is no difference in birth intervals between urban and rural women, birth intervals do vary considerably by region of residence. Women in the South West have the longest median birth interval (37 months) and women in the South East have the shortest median birth interval (27 months), a difference of almost one year. Initiation of Sexual Behaviour and Childbearing at Young Ages. One-third of women age 25-49 reported that they had had sexual intercourse by age 15. By age 20, more than three-quarters of women, and by age 25, nine in ten women have had sexual intercourse. One-quarter of teenage women has given birth or is pregnant. Early childbearing is more of a rural phenomenon, with 30 percent of rural women age 15-19 having begun childbearing compared with 17 percent of urban women in the same age group. Overall, median age at first birth is increasing. Whereas median age at first birth is less than 19 years among women over age 35, it is 20.3 years among women age 25-29.