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Despite recent quasi-glorification of teenage pregnancy (we're looking at you, "Teen Mom"), a study by Save the Children reports that pregnancy is the number one killer of teenage girls worldwide.
The report outlines the health risks of teenage pregnancy, both to young mothers and their babies. Among the statistics, the one the practically jumped off the page at us is the following:
"Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s. Adolescents age 15 through 19 are twice as likely to die."
Covering both developed and developing countries, the report focuses on the lack of access to birth control and sex education. Some countries do not have the means or the desire to teach their girls about sex or provide them with contraceptives. In cases of older girls (17 to 20 years old), many do not have access to information regarding pregnancy prevention, health, or recovery.
Also highlighted in the research: Many girls in developing countries not only become pregnant too young, but become pregnant again too soon after giving birth.
"As a mother, I know how valuable that recovery time after giving birth can be. What is more surprising is that delaying the next pregnancy dramatically reduces the risk of complications and death for newborns and mothers, which is critical," said Save the Children's President & CEO, Carolyn Miles in a post on the foundation's website.
In some developing countries, girls marry at as young as 11 years old and become pregnant before their bodies are developed enough to bear children. This is a hazard for both the young mother and her baby. According to the report, "Some 222 million women around the world who don't want to get pregnant currently don't have access to contraception. This year, an estimated 80 million unintended or mistimed pregnancies will occur in developing countries."
According to the World Health Organization, 287 000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2010. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.
So what is being done to find a solution to this problem? Experts say that proper access to contraceptive treatments in developing countries could prevent more than half a million deaths related to underage pregnancy each year.
"The issue of children having children - and dying because their bodies are too immature to deliver the baby - is a global scandal," said Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children. "This is a tragedy not just for those girls but also for their children: babies are 60% more likely to die if their mother is under 18."
Want to learn more? Visit savethechildren.org.