Becoming a mother carries risks for all women regardless of their age, but many factors make adolescent childbearing especially hazardous. For younger adolescents who are not physiologically mature, pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous, particularly in cases where girls get pregnant within two years of starting their periods or when their pelvis and birth canal are still growing.
The main causes of adolescent maternal death include high blood pressure resulting from pregnancy, uterine infection, unsafe abortion, and malaria.
The future is compromised for most adolescent girls who become mothers . Many will face poverty, ill health, abuse, unprotected sex carrying HIV risk , frequent pregnancies, an end to education, and few positive life options. Their children are more likely than those of older mothers to be malnourished and have developmental problems. One million babies born to adolescent mothers will not make it to their first birthday. Several hundred thousand more will be dead by age 5 .
In South and Southeast Asia , adolescent childbearing is highest in Bangladesh , at over 64 per cent , followed by Nepal (51 per cent) and India (47 per cent) . Regionally, almost a quarter of girls give birth by the time they are 18.
Adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their 20.
For those under 15, the risks are 5 times higher.
Source: UNFPA 2005.
Preventing unwanted adolescent pregnancy and investing in girls’ education, health, and livelihoods, means:
• Promoting young women’s human rights and rectifying pervasive gender inequalities • Supporting adolescent girls to grow up happy, healthy, and empowered • Saving lives – decreasing unnecessary maternal, infant, and child mortality and illness • Ensuring more babies will be born to mothers who are better prepared to care and provide for them • Improving the economic potential of families – breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty • Producing positive ripple effects for communities and societies, including improved productivity, reduced expenditures, and economic growth.