Teenage or adolescent pregnancy is when women between the age of 15 and 19 get pregnant. Teen pregnancy is a social issue that predates modern civilization. With awareness and developments, its occurrence has reduced. However, it still affects developing and even developed countries. It is especially prevalent in South-East Asian and African countries.
In India, mainly in rural areas, the outlook towards sex, reproduction, and contraception is still very taboo. It adds to several factors that result in teen pregnancies. Child marriage, early initiation in sexual activity (higher in urban areas), sexual coercion and rape, lack of access to contraception, etc., are some factors leading to it. It is amplified when there is a lack of contraception in the region. In rural areas, teenage pregnancies and child marriages are well-accepted customs. Poverty and ignorance only worsen this. In numbers, 11.8 million adolescent pregnancies occurred in 2017 in India. The percentage was 9.2% in rural areas and 5% in urban areas. For a population-dense country like India, this has terrible consequences. For teenage mothers and their very children.
Teenagers that become mothers face multiple setbacks. The most impacting reverse is their education. Taking care of a child requires a lot of energy, time, money, which they have to take away from vital things like education, friends, hobbies, etc. Many teenage mothers are also not economically and mentally equipped to take care of their babies. Many of them are also developing physically, which means their body isn't ready to take on the additional strain. The situation is worse when the mother isn't married because it makes them vulnerable to social stigma.
Additionally, the child itself can face serious problems. There are multiple medical conditions that the baby can be born with, such as low birth weight, prenatal and neonatal mortality (death in the first seven days), etc. The child can also receive inadequate care, observed in their nutrition, feeding, and breastfeeding. And since 42% of teenage girls in India have a BMI of less than 18.5, i.e., they are undernourished, this further strains their bodies. All this leads to a vicious cycle.
Awareness about this issue has increased, with the social issue taught at schools and colleges. But teenager pregnancy is still prevalent. This is mainly due to a lack of awareness, mainly in rural areas. Inaccessibility of good short and long-term contraception. Child marriages. There isn't much that people can do at an individual level to stop this. But spreading awareness, talking about it, and volunteering to villages/towns to educate people helps. At a government level, providing cheap family planning services is the most crucial solution.
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