The Progress of Nations

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 The time to sow
  
 Data briefs: Progress and disparity
      

Teen mothers and their children at risk

When an adolescent becomes a mother, her health and that of her child are threatened. Early child-bearing also means girls lose out on schooling and have few employment options, thus perpetuating circumstances that disadvantage girls. The risks associated with adolescent motherhood make it a clear violation of children’s right to health and survival – for both the young mother and her child.

% of women* who gave birth by age 15 or 18
    *Aged 20-24 at the time of survey.
    Source: DHS (1990-1999).

Children of adolescent mothers are more likely to be born underweight and to die within their first month of life compared to those whose mothers are older. If they survive the first month, these children are still more likely to die before their fifth birthdays.

For the young mothers, the risk of dying during childbirth is heightened. Teenage girls over 15 years of age are twice as likely to die from childbirth as are women in their 20s, while girls under 15 are at five times greater risk. Early sexual activity also increases the risk of infection with HIV/AIDS.

Data from 54 countries show that in Bangladesh, Chad, Guinea, Mauritania and Nigeria more than 1 in every 10 women have their first child before age 15. In Mauritania, the rate is especially high: Nearly a quarter of women have their first child before the age of 15 and over half have their first child before age 18. In 20 other countries, more than one out of every four women give birth before age 18.

Women who begin bearing children during adolescence typically have more children over the course of their reproductive years.

In both Chad and Côte d’Ivoire, for example, where 10% or more of girls become mothers by the age of 15, the average woman will give birth to six children. That is twice the average fertility rate in the developing world.

 
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