What Are The Causes and Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy

Babies born to mothers under 20 years of age face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions. In some settings, rapid repeat pregnancy is a concern for young mothers, as it presents further health risks for both the mother and the child.

While the immediate health risks to both mother and child are a major cause for concern in teenage pregnancy, there is also a large economic impact. Babies born to mothers under 20 years of age face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions. In some settings, rapid repeat pregnancy is a concern for young mothers, as it presents further health risks for both the mother and the child.

Teenage pregnancy can cause both the expectant mother and the child to face health risks. The baby may be born with low birth weight, or preterm delivery. In developing countries, rapid repeat pregnancy is very common in young women and presents further health risks for mother and child

Teenage pregnancy is a major public health concern in many of the world’s low- and middle-income countries. Although rates of teenage pregnancy have declined significantly since the mid-1980s, in 2014, 6.7 million children were born to women aged 15–19 years worldwide.

Teenage pregnancy is a serious problem in many countries. Because of their age, teenage mothers are more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than older women. Teenagers also have lower levels of education and income than older mothers do, which makes raising a baby more difficult.

What are the Causes of Teenage Pregnancy

Approximately 90% of births to girls aged 15-19 in developing countries occur within early marriage where there is often an imbalance of power, no access to contraception and pressure on girls to prove their fertility.

Factors such as parental income and the extent of a girl’s education also contribute. Girls who have received minimal education are 5 times more likely to become a mother than those with higher levels of education. Pregnant girls often drop out of school, limiting opportunities for future employment and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In many cases, girls perceive pregnancy to be a better option than continuing their education.

In addition, the unique risks faced by girls during emergencies increase the chances of them becoming pregnant. Factors include the desire to compensate for the loss of a child, reduced access to information and contraception and increased sexual violence.

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How does teenage pregnancy affect girls?

Adolescent pregnancy remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality. Complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 globally. Pregnant girls and adolescents also face other health risks and complications due to their immature bodies. Babies born to younger mothers are also at greater risk. 

For many adolescents, pregnancy and childbirth are neither planned, nor wanted. In countries where abortion is prohibited or highly restricted, adolescents typically resort to unsafe abortion, putting their health and lives at risk. Some 3.9 million unsafe abortions occur each year to girls aged 15-19 in developing regions.

Adolescent pregnancy can also have negative social and economic effects on girls, their families and communities. Unmarried pregnant adolescents may face stigma or rejection by parents and peers as well as threats of violence. Girls who become pregnant before age 18 are also more likely to experience violence within a marriage or partnership.

What are the effects of teenage pregnancy?

What are the effects of teenage pregnancy?

How does Plan International support at-risk girls and teenage mothers?

We are committed to tackling adolescent pregnancy, especially among younger adolescents (aged 10-14) who are most at risk and yet often overlooked. We also support girls who have already become mothers.

By raising girls’ awareness of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, protecting them from abuse and connecting them with education and health services, we support the key decisions they make about their futures and bodies.

We call on governments to strengthen national health systems, implement comprehensive education on sexuality and relationships in and out of schools, and provide affordable, safe contraception to tackle the root causes of adolescent pregnancy. We also demand governments do more to support pregnant girls and young mothers to continue and complete their education.

Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy

  • Teenage pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs in teen girls between the ages of 13-19 years.
  • Although precisely not a teenager, a young girl 12 or under who is pregnant also fall into this definition of teenage pregnancy.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 194,377 babies were born in 2017 to 15 to 19 year-olds.
  • Teenage pregnancy is also widely known as adolescent pregnancy.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in 2014, about 77 percent of the pregnancies were unplanned.
  • Teenage pregnancy can risk the health of teen mom and even of the child with an adverse effects on health.

Global Facts on Teenage Pregnancy:

  • Almost 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and 2.5 million girls under 16 years give birth each year in developing regions (UNFPA, 2015)
  • Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15 to 19- year-old girls globally (World Health Organization, 2015)
  • Every year, some 3.9 million girls aged 15 to 19 years undergo unsafe abortions (Guttmacher institute, 2016)
  • Adolescent mothers (ages 10 to 19 years) face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, and systemic infections than women aged 20 to 24 years do.
  • Twenty-three million girls aged 15 to 19 years in developing regions have an unmet need for modern contraception. As a result, half of the pregnancies among girls aged 15 to 19 years in developing regions are estimated to be unintended (Guttmacher institute, 2016)
  • Adolescent pregnancy remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality, and to intergenerational cycles of ill health and poverty.
  • Every day, 20,000 girls below age 18 give birth in developing countries.
  • Nine in 10 of these births occur within a marriage or a union highlighting the scourge of child marriage.
  • According to UNFPA, out of 500 million adolescent girls in the developing world, more than 3 million of them aged 10 to 19 live in Nepal.

Why Do These Early Pregnancies Occur?

  • According to World Health Organization (WHO), some girls/women get pregnant because they are unable to refuse unwanted sex or to resist forced or coerced sex.
  • Others do so because they do not know how to avoid a pregnancy or are unable to obtain contraceptives, including emergency contraception.
  • Still, others get pregnant because their pregnancy is wanted by themselves or by influential people around them.

Main Causes/Factors Contributing to Teenage Pregnancy:

  • Lack of parental care
  • Lack of formal and informal education
  • Lack of sex education
  • Insufficient communication and supervision by parents.
  • Poverty
  • Peer pressure
  • Low educational level
  • Negative family interactions
  • Single parent families
  • Sexual abuse or Rape
  • Substance abuse
  • Socio-economic status
  • Family history of teenage pregnancies
  • Forced marriage
  • Child marriage
  • Lack of school fees
  • Desire for children
  • Insufficient knowledge of contraceptive devices

Adverse Effects of Teenage Pregnancy:

  • High social and economic costs of teen pregnancy and childbearing can have short and long-term negative consequences for teen parents, their children, and their community.
  • High risk of Low Birth Weight (LBW) child
  • High chances of premature infants
  • Anemia
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • High risk of Infant mortality
  • Drop out of school
  • Lower school accomplishment
  • Unemployment/ underemployment as a young adult
  • Lack of proper emotional support and cognitive stimulation by the children who are born to teen mothers.
  • Behavioral problems and chronic medical conditions of the children
  • Higher chances of foster care settlement of the children.
  • Teen mom goes through various mental stress due to unplanned pregnancy such as:
    • Sleepless nights
    • Insomnia
    • High chances of postpartum depression
    • Baby blues: Woman experiences symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, sadness, overwhelm, difficulty concentrating, trouble eating, and difficulty sleeping for one to two weeks after giving birth which collectively known as ‘Baby Blues’.

More chances to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that includes more severe and significant symptoms than baby blues. Likewise, the teen mom can have additional symptoms of postpartum depression like-

  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Feeling of worthless
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Thinking of harming own self or the baby
  • Difficulty in enjoying activities

Mitigation Measures for Preventing Teenage Pregnancy:

1. Abstinence

  • Self-restraint from sexual activity at early age is the best way to prevent teenage pregnancy.

2. Contraceptives

  • Using contraceptive devices or emergency pills during a sexual intercourse helps in preventing teenage pregnancy and early parenthood.

3. Communication

  • Active and positive interaction between child-parent regarding sex education or difficulties may prove beneficial to step down the barriers of early pregnancy.

4. Provision sex education in higher secondary schools along with the consequences.

  • Targeting messages at teen boys, not just at the girls.
  • Increasing the availability of condoms to teens.
  • Encourage mentoring by older teens to younger teens regarding teenage pregnancy and consequences.

5. Organizing community-based programs on teenage pregnancy and adverse effects.

6. Schools should provide adolescent-friendly health services along with counseling.

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