India’s Teen Pregnancy Numbers Have Dropped Steadily for 20 Years: Report
India’s adolescent pregnancy rates have shown a steady decrease over two decades according to a global study on teen pregnancy published in The Lancet. The data comprised more than 740,000 girls, aged 15 to 19, living in 74 low- and middle-income countries and from 1990-2018. According to the researchers’ calculations, India also saw the highest average annual decrease in adolescent motherhood among all countries evaluated.
But, globally, the effort to curb teenage motherhood has not had as much success. This is linked to difficulty in fighting global poverty and gender inequity.
“Young women living in the most disadvantageous conditions, those who are poorest, have no education and live in rural locations, have the highest rates of adolescent motherhood,” M. Mamun Huda, a study co-author from the University of Queensland Institute for Social Science Research, said in a statement. “Not only do these groups have the highest prevalence, but they also have elevated risk of poor maternal and child health outcomes as well as wider social and economic burdens on family, community, and country.”
Researchers say that pregnancy and childbirth complications are one of the leading causes of death for adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries. In India, teenage mothers are less likely to use contraceptives or be able to take time to heal between pregnancies, which lead to long-term health problems and a higher chance of early death. Apart from health-related disadvantages, adolescent mothers also have high school dropout rates due to the double burden of motherhood and housework. This leads to them having less agency and autonomy within the household, leaving them to abuse.
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Researchers suggest doubling down on the types of programs that have proven effective at reducing teen pregnancy rates, rather than reinventing the wheel. “Interventions that have already been proven effective, such as school-based sexual education programs, adolescent-friendly reproductive health services, and cash transfer programs, should be implemented as a priority,” they write. “Disadvantaged groups identified in this study, where the prevalence of adolescent motherhood was more likely to be concentrated, should be targeted for the interventions. Furthermore, higher-level developments that promote national-level policies for economic growth, increased expenditure on education, decreased income inequality, and improved gender equality can also contribute to reducing adolescent childbearing.”
Adolescent wellbeing is a key Sustainable Development Goal for the United Nations and this includes ensuring adolescent girls are reproductively healthy and educated — and not pregnant. Researchers conclude by stating that targeting interventions at the most disadvantaged groups in each country is critical to achieving this goal.