According to new report released by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), every year in developing countries 7.3 million girls under age 18 give birth. This new report explores the negative health, educational, social, and psychological consequences of adolescent pregnancy, and calls on families, communities, and governments to take action to protect the safety and future potential of young girls.
The UNFPA’s report, entitled State of the World Population 2013: Motherhood in Childhood, has found that while adolescent pregnancy is a significant issue in developed countries, the biggest challenge comes in tackling the problem in the developing world. Young girls in developing countries often suffer health complications during pregnancy, and are at twice the risk of pregnancy-related death or disability as older women.
Other consequences of early pregnancy often include the end to a girl’s education. Pregnant girls often face social stigma and are forced to leave school, or leave of their own volition during pregnancy or childbirth and never return to continue their education. This not only impacts young women’s future employment prospects and economic earning potential, but on a widespread scale can actually affect the GDP of nations.
The UNFPA’s report cites the example of India, where, if the country’s adolescent mothers had been able to delay pregnancy until their early 20s, an additional $7.7 billion in economic productivity could have been added to the economy.
According to Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director, society often blames adolescent girls for choosing to become pregnant, however in reality, the cause is an “absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information, and healthcare.”
To tackle the problem of early pregnancy, the UNFPA recommends a “holistic” approach that includes adjusting the general attitudes and actions of a society. Specific recommendations include supporting girls’ education, preventing child marriage, increasing access to sex education and contraception, promoting gender equality, and providing support to adolescent mothers.
The UNFPA’s full report can be found here.
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