Preventing teenage pregnancy is urgent to improve the lives of thousands of girls and young people

In general, teenage pregnancy today represents a problem of multifactorial origin, which widens social and gender differences among the population, as it changes their life plan and family environment, has important negative consequences on the health, economy and psychosocial development of adolescents.

On September 26, Mexico celebrates the memory of National Teen Unplanned Pregnancy Prevention Daythis was created for the first time in Mexico in 2006 with the aim of raising awareness among the general population regarding this problem that affects the health and social and economic development of the population.

In relation to this date, The Economist I talked to the doctor Carlos Andres Leitic Alvagynecologist and specialist in reproductive biology, explains that today we have a lot of research and studies from government, international and private institutions that show that teenage pregnancy is extremely important.

Dr. Carlos Andres Leitic Alva, gynecologist and specialist in reproductive biology. Photo EE: Courtesy

Mexico ranks first in the world for teenage pregnancy among the nations of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developmentwith a birth rate of 77 births per thousand adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19.

In our country, 23% of adolescents start their sexual life between the ages of 12 and 19, and according to data from the National Population Council, they start at an average age of 15.5. On the other hand, statistics from National Institute of Perinatology show that this occurs at an average age of 14.6 years.

The same National Health Survey (ENSANUT) 2022 tells us that 86% of adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 have heard of contraception and almost 20% already have an active sex life, of which 20% do not use any type of contraception.

In this same registry, 37% mentioned that they had ever been pregnant, and 53% knew contraceptive methods after childbirth. “This means that even though you hear about contraceptives, there is bad information, because hearing does not mean knowing them, much less using them correctly. This becomes a pretty important area of ​​opportunity.

Globally, about 16 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 and approximately 1 million girls under 15 give birth each year, most in low- and middle-income countries. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds worldwide.

What do we have to combat these numbers?

Today in Mexico there is National strategy for the prevention of teenage pregnancy (Enapea), this has been going on for many years and from 2020 it becomes more relevant, “we must give it the importance it deserves, as it is the main program on which we must put all the emphasis, so that the important actions really be done, individual things work less”.

Also the Medical Manager of Women’s Health at Pfizer Mexico explains that, based on it, the focus on the rights of adolescent patients must be shifted in order to start to strengthen actions and above all to make them known. “The work is in collaboration with government, civil society, private initiative, among other actors, because with a pregnant teenage girl, the social, cultural and economic consequences are quite serious and have an impact at all levels.”

The consequences

Today we have studies that reveal the existence of 121 million unplanned pregnancies every year since 2015. These girls largely see their professional careers, their educations ended. “Women who take care of their teenage children are out of work, fall into unemployment or temporary jobs that even put them at a disadvantage.”

Only 4 out of 10 mothers in their 20s have a job or are still studying. But even more, the health consequences are very great. The National Institute of Perinatology and Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS)have shown that if a woman becomes pregnant before the age of 20, she is 20% more likely to die during the pregnancy or during childbirth, but if we reduce this to 15 years, there is a 50% greater chance that this girl dies during pregnancy.

The specialist explains that we also have a high rate of premature births, caesarean sections, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and other types of complications, which occur 50% more in those under 20.

What can we do?

Leitik Alva said this The College of Mexico, together with specialists, analyzed the preventive strategies generated on the issue, found that everything that is being done to deal with the problem is of fundamental importance and should be strengthened and implemented. “With this, we can start to change the landscape and the course of life for thousands of teenagers a little bit.”

The specialist assures that education takes on special importance, “knowing our contraceptives, because although they exist in quotes, they are not used. We need to promote the use of these contraceptives and in this aspect we all have a part to play, we all need to generate information, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, the government, private initiative, non-governmental organizations, teachers, parents, among other actors.

He said that above all we need to reach those most vulnerable groups of the population, with complex economic conditions, where the numbers reflect an even greater slowdown, for example the south-eastern part of the country, in particular the Sierra de Guerrero, there it is known that there are still cases of girl marriages and although it is not a contradiction to tradition, it is necessary to talk about it openly so that decisions are informed and they have the opportunity to use contraceptives.

She explains that some of the contraceptives are invisible, long-lasting and independent of the couple, which is why they are recommended by international institutions. Another of the lessons so far is to understand that this dialogue involves men and women equally, therefore the conversation about contraceptive methods becomes essential for both groups.

How to reach young people?

Dr Leitik Alva concludes that this is one of the main pieces why platforms are created to reach out to teenagers in a much more accessible language. “These are spaces run by young people for young people where they can talk openly about their concerns.”

He adds that fostering inclusive spaces that generate trust and a common language will make it possible to reach a larger number of the population and see much more substantial change. “Keeping our girls from getting pregnant at a young age is paramount for a country like Mexico.”

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