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Key Facts about Adolescents and Reproductive Health

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Key Facts about Adolescents
and Reproductive Health

Many adolescents are sexually active and are
affected by unplanned pregnancies.

  • On average, 43 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa and 20 percent in Latin America have had premarital sex before age 20. Sexual activity is even higher in certain developed countries: 68 percent of teens in the United States and 72 percent in France have had premarital sex by age 20.
  • Worldwide, more than 15 million girls ages 15-19 give birth each year, and more than 2 million have unsafe abortions.
  • An average of 40 percent of women in developing countries gives birth before age 20. In developed countries, only 10 percent on average give birth during adolescence. In the United States 19 percent of young women do so.
  • One-fourth to one-half of all adolescent births in Latin America and the Caribbean are unplanned, as are 15-30 percent of those in North Africa and the Middle East and 40 to 60 percent in such Asian and sub-Saharan countries as the Philippines, Ghana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. In the United States, seven in ten births to adolescents are unplanned.

Adolescent pregnancy places young women and their
children at risk of complications, including death.

  • Complications of pregnancy, childbirth, and unsafe abortion are the major causes of death for women ages 15-19. Maternal mortality rates for women ages 15-19 are twice as high for women in their twenties.
  • Anemia and high blood pressure during pregnancy and hemorrhage and obstruction during labor are more common among teenage women, who are less likely to succeed in carrying a pregnancy to term.
  • Children born to mothers under 20 are more likely to die before their first birthdays – one and one-half times more likely in many countries – than those born to mothers ages 20-29. Babies born to young mothers are more likely to be premature, have low birth weights, and suffer from complications of delivery.

Adolescents are at higher risk of contracting sexually
transmitted infections (STIs) than adults.

  • Currently, an estimated one in 20 teenagers worldwide contracts an STI each year.
  • The highest rates of infection with STIs, including HIV, are found among young people ages 20-24. Teens ages 15-19 have the next highest rates of STI infection.
  • WHO estimates that half of all people infected with HIV are younger than age 25. In developing countries, up to 60 percent of all new infections are among 15-24 year olds.

The reproductive health needs of young men are
not always met.

  • Young men under 19 years of age who become fathers are less likely to graduate from school and have fewer employment opportunities than males who wait until they are 24
  • Recent research from Kenya indicates that men exposed to family planning and other reproductive health issues when they were young are more likely to have a positive attitude toward, and be supportive of, their partner's family planning use in late life.

Many of the above statistics are adapted from: Family Planning Saves Lives (Population Reference Bureau 1997); Into a New World: Young Women's Sexual and Reproductive Lives (The Alan Guttmacher Institute 1998); Population Issues: Briefing Kit 1997 (UNFPA 1997); and Youth and Adolescent Health (UNFPA and Family Care International)

[ || Pregnancy || Informed Choice || Infections and Diseases || Quality of Care || Emerging Issues ]
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