Factors influencing adolescent pregnancy and childbirth
A range of social, cultural, biological and service delivery factors contribute
to the high levels of adolescent pregnancy and childbirth:
Declining age of menarche – The age of menarche
has declined, especially in urban areas.
Duration of education and societal demands –
A growing number of adolescent girls are allowed to go for higher education
and marry late as a result. But in rural areas, marriage still occurs
very early for young girls. They are then pushed into early motherhood.
Early initiation of sexual activity is on the increase.
– possibly because of influence of media, cross-cultural influences,
decreased supervision by adults (nuclear families, migration), more
Ignorance – regarding sexuality and reproduction
predisposes married and unmarried adolescents to get pregnant.
Sexual coercion and rape, figures prominently in
the lower socio-economic strata. Pregnancies are not the only result,
but also serious physical and psychological consequences.
Disruption of education also influences adolescent
childbearing as women with little or no education are more likely to
become mothers early.
Socio-economic factors often force young girls into
sexual exploitation and prostitution and compounded by lack of access
to contraceptive services and inability to negotiate condom use, the
young girl may soon become pregnant.
Lack of access to information has a significant bearing on early
pregnancy and childbirth. Adventurous nature, poor negotiation skills
and sexual coercion predisposes unmarried girls for sexual activity
and unwanted pregnancy. Adolescent pregnancies tend to be highest in
areas with the lowest contraceptive prevalence. Contraceptive prevalence
has increased mostly among older, married women and not adolescents.
Lack of access to services leads to risky pregnancy and unsafe abortion,
Risks of pregnancy in married and unmarried adolescents
Pregnancy and childbirth carry more risks in adolescents than
in adults because the adolescent girl is not yet mature physically and
emotionally for motherhood. The risks are high throughout the antenatal
period, labour, childbirth and the postpartum period.
Babies born to adolescent mothers have a higher risk of being
of low birth weight. This makes them predisposed to higher morbidity
Risk of poor pregnancy outcome is more common in adolescent
pregnancy than adults.
The highest maternal mortality in adolescents is in those aged
15 years and under.
Pregnancy and the responsibility of child rearing could reduce
the ability of the girl to continue with her education and with exploring
Unwanted pregnancy in unmarried girls may stigmatise them leading
to poor self esteem.
Un-intended pregnancy in both married and unmarried girls may
prompt them to resort to illegal and unsafe abortions. This is more
pronounced in unmarried girls.
Possibility of being taken out of school and social stigma especially
of pregnancies in unmarried girls.