Adolescent sexual and reproductive health

Posted: 26 September 2007

Worldwide, women aged 15 to 19 give birth to roughly 13 million of the 131 million children born each year. Women in this age group have 10 per cent of all abortions. The physical immaturity of many of these young mothers increases their risk of death or serious disability; pregnancy-related complications are among the major causes of death for girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide.

Adolescent childbearing worldwide. Teenage fertility is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, is also quite high in Latin America and South Asia, and  lowest in East Asia.
Adolescent childbearing worldwide. Teenage fertility is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, is also quite high in Latin America and South Asia, and lowest in East Asia.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls and young women aged 15 to 19 in the developing world, according to a report, State of the World's Mothers 2004: Children Having Children, published by Save the Children USA. Approximately 70,000 teenagers die annually because of complications from pregnancy and childbirth, and girls who do survive often struggle to overcome poor health, education and poverty.

  • Five million unsafe abortions take place among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 every year - a quarter of all unsafe abortions.

  • Globally, 1 out of every 20 adolescents gets a sexually transmitted infection (STI) each year.

  • Half of all new HIV cases - nearly 6,000 new infections each day - are among young people aged 15 to 24. 7.3 million young women and 4.5 million young men are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

  • Girls and young women are often denied the formal education and employment opportunities which enhance decision-making skills and that can empower them to delay marriage and pregnancy, and refuse unwanted sex.

  • Adolescent pregnancy and adolescent abortion are problems facing many countries in the developed world, not just the developing world.

  • The unmet need for family planning is estimated to be twice as high among adolescents as the general population. Thirty-six per cent of married teenagers in Nepal do not have access to family planning, and in Haiti that number is 58 per cent.

  • Teenage mothers face higher-than-average risk of death in pregnancy and childbirth, and their children are more likely to get ill and die. According to State of the World's Mothers 2004, babies of teens are 50 per cent more likely to die than those born to older women, and an estimated 1 million infants born to teen mothers die before their first birthday.

  • Teenage birth rates and abortion rates in Sweden were reduced in the 1970s by contraceptive education, easy access to contraceptive services and the provision of free abortion on demand. Sweden's teenage birth rate fell from 49 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 1965, to 10 births per 1,000 women in 1984.