Delivering on global promises of hope
Between 14 million and 15 million girls and young women give birth each year, accounting for more than 10% of births worldwide. Because of concern at high levels of unwanted pregnancy amongst adolescents, and of sexually transmitted infections and HIV and AIDS, many countries have introduced programmes to delay early sexual debut and reduce high levels of adolescent pregnancy.
However, adolescent pregnancies are still common, and WHO identified the care of pregnant adolescents and the safe delivery and care of their babies as an area of need which was not being adequately addressed. Adolescents account for 15% of the global burden of disability for maternal conditions, and 13% of all maternal deaths.
On 5-6 August 2003 the World Health Organization, with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) convened a Technical Working Group of experts in Geneva to seek ways of contributing to the Millennium Development target to reduce maternal mortality, through specific interventions for pregnant adolescents, and babies born to adolescents. The expert group discussed key messages, best practices and effective strategies, and identified gaps in research that need to be filled.
A working paper summarizing and reviewing research and programme information from around the world, Adolescent Pregnancy: Unmet Needs and Undone Deeds, and a subsequent WHO document, Adolescent Pregnancy : Issues in Adolescent Health and Development (2004. WHO Discussion Papers on Adolescence) is also available.
This document is designed to draw the attention of policy makers and programme managers to the need to improve care for pregnant adolescents, both inside and outside the health care system. In doing so, they can contribute to the Millennium Development Goals, connect services better with adolescents, and take steps that will improve maternal health for women of all ages.