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Latin America Holds Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Week

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 09/21/2021 - 16:54

This week, countries in Latin America are promoting the prevention of teenage pregnancy. The region has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world, warns PAHO, which has radical effects on girls’ life trajectories, psychosocial development and contributes to poor health outcomes.

In Latin America, about 18 percent of births are from teenage mothers under 20. Each year, 1.5 million teenage women in the region between the ages of 15 and 19 have babies. According to a study by PAHO, teenage pregnancy is not equally distributed between and within countries: girls from poorer, lower educated, rural, indigenous and afro descendent groups tend to carry a disproportionate burden of early pregnancy.

Mexico has the highest teenage birth rate out of all OECD members, with 62 out of every 1,000 pregnancies occurring in girls and teenagers, according ISGlobal. While the rate declined by 8 percent between 2000 and 2006, it rose to almost 15 percent between 2007 and 2012. Two out of every ten mothers who gave birth in Mexico in 2017 were under 20 years of age.

Between 2020 and 2021 the total number of teenage pregnancies will add up to about 22,000 more than expected, which represents an increase of 12 percent compared to 2019, according to CONAPO’s latest estimates. A leading reason for the rise is the lack of access to contraception. “It has been identified that between 2020 and 2021 there will be an average surplus of 1.72 million women with unmet needs for contraception, which will lead to the addition of about 145,719 additional pregnancies compared to those expected without the pandemic. Among those under 19 years of age, using a conservative estimate, an increase of 20 percent in unmet needs would be expected, a percentage that will lead to the addition of 21,575 adolescent pregnancies,” said Gabriela Rodríguez, Head of CONAPO.

Teenage pregnancy has long-term consequences for the mother because her body is not completely developed. In this type of pregnancy there is a greater risk of rupture of the uterus and other organs, raising risk of death for both the mother and child. The younger the mother, the more likely the baby is to be malnourished or to suffer from developmental disorders or malformations. Plus, these babies are 50 percent more likely to die in their first few weeks of life. As for the mother, there are risks of preeclampsia, high mortality, contracting sexually transmitted diseases and lack of medical care if they are unaware of the pregnancy.

Globally, teenage pregnancy is the leading cause of mortality in girls aged between 15 and 19 years. About 90 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries and most of them are preventable, said ISGlobal. The two main factors contributing to pregnancies at very early ages are the lack of access to quality sex education and the lack of prevention and contraceptive services, according to FIFARMA.

Mexico’s government developed the National Strategy for the Prevention of Pregnancy in Adolescents (ENAPEA), a product of the joint work of 16 agencies of the Federal Government, civil societies, international organizations and experts from the academic field. ENAPEA aims to reduce teenage pregnancies in Mexico while respecting human rights, particularly sexual and reproductive rights. ENAPEA aims to reduce the births of girls aged 10 to 14 to zero and to reduce the specific fertility rate of adolescents aged 15 to 19 by 50 percent by 2030.

PAHO shared informational material to help promote prevention among teenagers. Here is the link to the campaign.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst