A May 2017 major report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that pregnancy complications are the leading cause of death globally for adolescent females between the ages of 15-19 years old.
Adolescence is challenging enough, but add a pregnancy into the mix, and it becomes much more complicated.
The survey, which examined the health of adolescents worldwide, reported that more than 3,000 children between the ages of 10-19 die each day. The most disheartening aspect of this recent survey is that many of these 1.2 million adolescent deaths are largely preventable. In the case of pregnancy-related deaths, the majority of the complications develop during pregnancy or shortly thereafter and include pre-eclampsia, hemorrhage, complications from infections, obstructed labor, and complications from unsafe abortions.
The World Health Organization has identified some of the barriers that prevent women from seeking prenatal care such as: poverty, distance, lack of information, inadequate services, and cultural practices.
The authors suggest several interventions to help address the issue including increased education, social support, and access to healthcare. More specific suggestions include increasing the legal marrying age to 18, increasing access to contraception, reducing coerced sex, and reducing unsafe abortions. Further, the authors clearly state that a much greater emphasis be placed on adolescent health.
“Adolescents have been entirely absent from national health plans for decades,” says Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, WHO. “Relatively small investments focused on adolescents now will not only result in healthy and empowered adults who thrive and contribute positively to their communities, but it will also result in healthier future generations, yielding enormous returns.”
Despite the somber news, the report did have some positive findings. While 11% of births worldwide occur in girls 15-19 years of age, this was a decrease from 1990.
An article written by The Guardian reports that the majority of adolescent deaths took place in low and middle-income countries. The results of the WHO report hit close to home, as there has been increased publicity surrounding the topic of maternal health here in the United States. A recent NPR investigation examined maternal mortality and found that the United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world.
Maternal mortality, both in the United States and throughout the world, remains unacceptably high. As maternal health and infant health are so intricately linked, continued focus and improvements are needed in this area. As we know, healthy moms have a higher chance of having healthy babies. Healthy babies have a higher chance of becoming healthy teens and eventually, parents.