Worried congress tackles global teen pregnancies

2009-10-09 15:42

THE high global rate of teenage pregnancies was “extremely

worrying” because of its effect on maternal mortality rates, says Dr Dorothy

Shaw, president of the International Federation of Gynaecologists and

Obstetricians (FIGO).

Shaw was speaking at FIGO’s 19th congress at the Cape Town

International Convention Centre this week.

She said: “If we don’t deal with adolescent pregnancies we can

expect the maternal mortality rate to increase.”

She said to prevent teenage pregnancies it was essential to make

contraception available to teens.

The common age for adolescent pregnancies is between 15 and 19

years old.

Sex education, family planning and counselling services should also

be offered to tackle teenage pregnancies, Shaw said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 16

million women aged 15 to 19 give birth each year, contributing at least 11% of

all births worldwide.

WHO figures state that 95% of these births occur in low- and

middle-income countries.

The average adolescent birth rate in middle-income countries is

more than twice as high as in high-income countries.

The proportion of adolescent births is about 2% of the total number

of births in China and 18% in Latin America and the Caribbean.

More than 500 000 women of all ages die worldwide every year from

child-birth complications.

USAid estimates that pregnancy and childbirth complications are the

leading cause of death for women aged 15 to 19 in developing countries.

Young mothers are often not physically mature enough to deliver a

baby. This leaves the pregnant woman and her child at risk of death or

disability from obstructed labour, fistula, premature birth or low birth weight,

according to USAid.

The FIGO conference, which ends tomorrow, saw the launch of a joint

initiative by FIGO, the International Paediatric Association (IPA) and the

International Conference of Midwives (ICM) to abolish child marriage; advocate

the education of boys and girls so they can complete secondary school; and work

for the provision of sex education, counselling and contraceptive services to


As part of the initiative the three organisations have committed

themselves to working with other organisations and governments at international,

regional and national level to reduce maternal mortality among teenagers.

IPA president Chok-wan Chan said adolescent pregnancies and the

safe delivery of babies were of concern.

“We also often treat sick newborn babies due to young mothers who

are not healthy enough to have children.”

He said the continual education of young girls was essential to

preventing teenage pregnancies.

Socio-economic problems had increased the social dependency of

young mothers because they were not able to be productive and work without an

education, he said. – West Cape News

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