What is teenage pregnancy?
Teenage pregnancy is defined as pregnancy that occurs in a person who is younger than 20 years of age, and more specifically, between ages 15 to 19. Teenage pregnancy is a health concern worldwide, as it is associated with its own specific set of risks. Globally, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death of pregnant teenagers due to eclampsia, infections and other pregnancy complications, especially in low and middle-income countries. Teen pregnancy is also associated with a higher risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and other severe complications to newborns. Pregnant adolescents also experience higher rates of domestic abuse, school dropout, and low socioeconomic status.
In underdeveloped countries, teenagers may face more pressure to become pregnant younger, and in many countries, young girls are often forced into marriage before age 18, either by their families or due to a lack of other opportunities for education or employment. In many countries, safe and effective birth control is not easily available and associated with stigma. Among developed, wealthy countries, the US has the highest teenage pregnancy rate. Thankfully, the US teenage pregnancy rate has been declining steadily since 1991, but remains too high, with almost 17 out of every 1000 female teenagers becoming pregnant in 2019. Whether in the United States or another country, pregnancy can negatively impact the lives of teenagers physically, emotionally, and economically.
Teenagers living in developed nations are widely known to have similar levels of sexual activity, however use of effective contraception among teenagers was not equal. The reasons for the declining teenage pregnancy rates in the US are not well studied, however it is widely believed that higher abstinence rates among adolescents and widespread use of contraceptives are the driving factors. Like most healthcare issues, there are significant disparities in teen pregnancy rates with American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and Black adolescents having higher rates than other races.
What are effective ways to address teenage pregnancy?
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review lists evidence-based teen pregnancy programs that have proven effective. The programs include sexuality education programs, youth development programs, abstinence education programs, clinic-based programs, and programs specifically designed for diverse populations and settings. Access to youth-friendly reproductive health services and support from parents and other trusted adults, who can play an important role in helping teens make healthy choices about relationships, sex, and birth control, are also essential to addressing teenage pregnancy.
As a gynecologist, I spend a lot of time listening to and speaking with my teenage patients about pregnancy prevention. There are many contraception options and choosing a method can be overwhelming. What’s important to me is that my patients know what pregnancy prevention methods are available to them and they have the necessary information and support to make a choice. If you have any questions or need our support, we are available to help, download the Kiira app today.
- Adolescent pregnancy and its outcomes across countries. Guttmacher Institute. (2016, April 6). Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/adolescent-pregnancy-and-its-outcomes-across-countries
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November 15). About teen pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm#:~:text=The%20US%20teen%20birth%20rate,decrease%20of%204%25%20from%202018
- Trends in teen pregnancy and childbearing: HHS Office of Population Affairs. OPA Office of Population Affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://opa.hhs.gov/adolescent-health/reproductive-health-and-teen-pregnancy/trends-teen-pregnancy-and-childbearing
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Adolescent pregnancy. World Health Organization. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-pregnancy