These babies “born too soon,” as a new world health organizational report refers to these preterm babies, often died very soon after their births. It was acknowledged that this was a global problem that had not been given much attention nor was there a real known cause, which makes it a difficult problem to solve.
Another problem that merits attention, and is very complex, is that of teen pregnancies or girls who become mothers too soon. In 2009, a World Health Organization bulletin article described teenage motherhood as “complex” partly because in various parts of the world, teen motherhood is tied to culture.
In fact, the mores around marriage and sexual behavior all contribute to the way some societies approve or disapprove of teen motherhood. It becomes very tricky when science reveals the danger of young girls giving birth.
According to the WHO article, Adolescents aged less than 16 years face four times the risk of maternal death than women aged in their 20s, and the death rate of their neonates is about 50% higher, according to adolescent health consultant, James E Rosen, who has been conducting a research review for the department of Making Pregnancy Safer at WHO.
Health experts agree that pregnant adolescents require special physical and psychological attention during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period for preserving their own health and the health of their babies. Unfortunately most teens do not receive prenatal care and continue to face higher risks of problems.
In fact, ccording to the WHO report, many younger bodies are not fully developed to go through the process of pregnancy and childbirth without adverse impacts. Specifically, adolescent mothers face a higher risk of obstructed labor than women in their twenties.
They also more often jeopardize their lives and the lives of their babies. Without adequate emergency obstetric care, this can lead to uterine rupture and a high risk of death for both mother and infant. For those who survive, prolonged labor can cause obstetric fistula, which is a tear between the vagina and the bladder or the rectum, causing urine or feces to leak.
In Ethiopia and Nigeria, more than 25% of fistula patients had become pregnant before the age of 15 and more than 50% before the age of 18. Although the problem can be rectified with surgery, treatment is not widely available in most countries where fistula occurs and millions of women are left to suffer with a condition that leads to incontinence, bad odours and other side-effects including psychological problems and social isolation.
It was estimated in 2009, that 16 million girls aged between 15 and 19 gave birth, with 95% of those births occurring in developing countries. According to the review done by Rosen, this makes up 11% of all births worldwide.
However, global averages mask important regional differences. Births to adolescents as a percentage of all births range from about 2% in China to 18% in Latin America and the Caribbean. While the spread of teen pregnancy is not the same worldwide, it is a major concern. In Tanzania, a report by AMREF referenced teen pregnancy as a symptom of a larger problem.
“Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world. In extreme cases genderbased violence, sexual abuse and female genital mutilation becomes the norm.” In this case teen pregnancy can be considered as a part of a larger problem of general manipulation and abuse of females.
Overall, therefore, female abuse can lead to not only births that may be complicated, but also other diseases such as HIV/AIDS or even more gender based violence and maybe even death. As the clock continues to tick towards 2015, overcoming goal number five, maternal health, is key for not only the rights of women, but children and for the health of all. The health of mothers’ matters.