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Adolescent Reproductive Health: Risks of Early Pregnancy

Adolescent Reproductive Health: Risks of Early Pregnancy

Adolescence is the stage between childhood and adulthood. In this stage, a person is neither considered a child nor a full blown adult. The body is changing physically, both in outward appearance and internally. These changes may cause adolescents confusion, making them feel emotional with the new surge of hormones that is being released throughout their body. It is important to understand these changes as it prepares the adolescent for adulthood.

A person typically undergoes adolescence from 10 to 19 years of age. Adolescent reproductive health encompasses pertinent topics such as early pregnancies, safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexual violence, and sexual coercion. Early pregnancies, especially at this delicate time when the body is still adjusting and growing into adulthood, have certain implications on overall health, and throughout one’s life.

Four levels of sexual activity risks

Since adolescents are very curious about the changes going on in their bodies, they may be more inclined to explore their sexuality and participate in sexual activity. Exploring sexuality is normal and healthy. However, if teens are not safe, they may put their health at risk. It is best for parents and doctors to teach teenagers about adolescent reproductive health, like how to protect themselves from STIs, and how to avoid early pregnancies.

These include safe sex practices. Safe sex practices lower the risk of STIs and pregnancy.

There are four levels of risks when it comes to sexual activities.

  • No risk. This includes hugging, hand holding, massage, dry humping, fantasy sharing, as well as self masturbation.
  • Low risk. Low risk activities include masturbating your partner or masturbating together (as long the man does not ejaculate near the vagina of a female partner), and using condoms for every act of intercourse such as oral, vaginal, or anal.
  • Medium risk. Inserting an injured finger into the vagina, and improper use of condoms during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
  • High risk. Having oral, vaginal, or anal sex without using condoms. This exchange of body fluids exposes a person to STDs, including HIV/AIDS.

Unsafe Sex Practices: 5 Ways You’re Unprotected During Sex

Adolescent reproductive health: Sexually transmitted diseases

Adolescents who engage in sexual activities also need to be aware of the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases that adolescents can contract if they don’t practice safe sex are:

  • Gonorrhea
  • HPV
  • Herpes
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • HIV

Adolescent reproductive health: Risk of early pregnancy

According to the World Health Organization (WHO,) there are at least 777,000 girls under the age of 15 who give birth every year. Most of these girls belong to low- and middle-income countries, including the Philippines. These numbers reflect the importance of teaching adolescent reproductive health in order to reduce the number of unplanned births to underage parents.

Each year, around 21 million girls worldwide aged 15-19 years in developing countries become pregnant. Of these, 12 million of them will give birth. In the Philippines, early pregnancy affects 5.99% of Filipina girls. According to the Save the Children’ Global Childhood Report of 2019, the Philippines has the second highest rate in Southeast Asia when it comes to teenage pregnancies.

538 babies on average are born every day to Filipina teenage mothers, according to the Philippine Statistical Authority of 2017. Babies born to adolescent mothers totaled 196,478, while babies sired by adolescent fathers were at 52,342.

Every year, there are also 3.9 million girls, ages 15 to 19 years worldwide who undergo unsafe abortions. These can lead to the death of the mother, especially without proper medical intervention.

Effects of teenage pregnancy

An adolescent’s body is not yet fully mature to bear a child, so pregnancy risks are slightly higher than that of someone becoming pregnant in their mid-20s. The mother may opt for prenatal care, but sometimes, her health is not strong enough to carry the baby to full term.

Certain risks involved in adolescent reproductive health during pregnancy, labor, and delivery include:

  • Premature birth, which could lead to low birth weight of the baby
  • Anemia
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Higher risk of infant death
  • Higher risk of cephalopelvic disproportion

Aside from the physical toll that a teenage pregnancy can inflict, their mental health is also strongly affected. Since most adolescents are ill prepared for the complexity of childbirth and childrearing, relationships and finances often take a hit, which leads to more stress. Stress can affect the mother, father, and the child. Finishing school can also become challenging as newborns require undivided attention and care.

By teaching teens about adolescent reproductive health, and its associated risks and consequences, they may be empowered to make more informed choices about their sexual health and wellbeing.

Key takeaway

The adolescent stage is a time of discovery, and it is normal and healthy for individuals to explore their sexuality safely. As with any form of discovery, there are advantages and disadvantages, rewards and risks. It is important for adolescents to be educated in the changes in their bodies, as well as sexual wellness and safe sex practices.

If an adolescent engages in sexual activities, and ends up becoming pregnant, their overall reproductive health may suffer. However, with the right guidance from doctors and support of the family, and proper education about adolescent reproductive health, it is possible for a teenager to safely explore sexuality, while avoiding pregnancy. Consult your OB-GYN for any concerns about adolescent reproductive health and early pregnancy.

Learn more about Sexual Wellness here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health: 1. Introduction to Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health (AYRH), https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=62&printable=1     

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Inter-Agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings: 2010 Revision for Field Review, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305148/

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

 Sexual and reproductive health, https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/adolescence/en/ 

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Adolescent pregnancy, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-pregnancy 

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Risks of Teen Pregnancy, https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2016/10/risks-of-teen-pregnancy 

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Adolescent Health, https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/reproductive-health-and-teen-pregnancy/index.html

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health, https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=62&printable=1

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do/global-programs/health/adolescent-sexual-and-reproductive-health

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Adolescents’ reproductive health knowledge, choices and factors affecting reproductive health choices: a qualitative study in the West Gonja District in Northern region, Ghana, https://bmcinthealthhumrights.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12914-018-0147-5

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Adolescent sexual and reproductive health: The global challenges, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020729215000855

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Teenage Pregnancy, https://www.healthline.com/health/adolescent-pregnancy 

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD), https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/cephalopelvic-disproportion/ 

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Teen Pregnancy Issues and Challenges, https://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/teen-pregnancy-issues-challenges/ 

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Save the Children calls on the passage of Teenage Pregnancy Bill as the world celebrates International Day of the Girl, https://reliefweb.int/report/philippines/save-children-calls-passage-teenage-pregnancy-bill-world-celebrates-international

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Births in the Philippines, 2017, https://psa.gov.ph/content/births-philippines-2017

Accessed April 26, 2020

 

Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3876179/

Accessed April 9, 2021

 

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Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo Updated Jun 16
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.
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