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Early Marriages, Adolescents and Young Pregnancies

27 May

(These are curated tweets by WHO during the World Health Assembly 65 at Geneva Switzerland, dated May 25, 2012)

  • In 2008, mothers aged 15-19 years gave birth to 16m babies, representing 11% of all births worldwide.
  • About 95% of births in 2008 by mothers aged 15-19 years occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Progresss has been made: worldwide, the adolescent birth rate has declined from 60 per 1000 in 1990 to 48 per 1000 in 2007.
  • Discrepancy between regions in adolescent birth rates is wide, eg 5 per 1000 women in eastern Asia to 121 per 1000 in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • What contributes to adolescent pregnancy? Most people initiate sexual activity between 15 and 19 years of age.
  • In poorer countries, sexual activity for girls is often initiated in marriage, or due to coercion, frequently with older men.
  • Rates of use of contraception by adolescents are often low, hence adolescent girls may become pregnant.
  • Early marriage also contributes to adolescent pregnancy. Worldwide, 60m+ women aged 20-24 years were married before age 18.
  • Gender norms can also contribute to adolescent pregnancy; eg social norms that condone violence against women, girls put them at risk
  • Not knowing much about sex, family planning contributes to early pregnancy. Effective sexuality education is lacking in many countries.
  • Education in general is important: the more years of schooling, the fewer early pregnancies.
  • All couples should have access to safe, effective, affordable, acceptable methods of family planning.
  • Women have the right to access appropriate health-care services that enable them to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Many countries have laws that prohibit adolescents from accessing sexual and reproductive health services without parental, spousal consent.
  • What are the consequences of early pregnancy? A first pregnancy at an early age is risky. It can lead to disease and death.
  • Early, unwanted pregnancies can lead to induced abortion which can lead to severe health risks, death when carried out in unsafe conditions.
  • Up to 65% of women with obstetric fistula develped this during adolescence, with dire consequences for their lives.
  • Adolescent pregnancy is dangerous for the child. The younger the mother, the higher the risk of stillbirth and death of the infant.
  • Social consequences of adolescent pregnancy can be severe: school drop out, lack of subsequent income, violence against unmarried girls…
  • How can too-early pregnancies be prevented in developing countries? WHO has issued 6 recommendations.
  • 1) Reducing marriage prior to age 18; 2) Reducing pregnancy before the age of 20 years.
  • 3) Increase the use of contraception by adolescents at risk of unwanted pregnancy
  • 4) Reducing coerced sex among adolescents
  • 5) Reducing unsafe abortion among adolescents to prevent too-early pregnancies.
  • 6) Increasing the use of skilled antenatal, childbirth, postnatal care among adolescents to prevent too-early pregnancies.

For complete copy on the report of the WHO Secretariat on Early Marriages, Adolescents and Young Pregnancies, please feel free to read this article http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA65/A65_13-en.pdf

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