Teen pregnancy: A worldwide serious dilemma

India’s large adolescent population which is  more than 244 million presents both an unprecedented opportunity as well as a challenge. And one of the very foremost challenges include teen pregnancy!

Although, these teenagers hold the promise of achieving the country’s economic growth and development but their own body and health along with nutrition is at a stake. According to a new study, the evidence on the health costs of teenage pregnancy in India can be lifelong and intergenerational. It can affect the lives of many girls.

Although, under nutrition in India has improved in the past decade, the progress rate is quite slow and malnutrition remains a barrier to the health and growth of young people. Consequently, teenage pregnancy can adversely affect the health of the female who is yet to attain her full growth potential. And, moreover reports show that adolescent pregnancies also impact the country’s economic and social development.

Teenage pregnancy is almost double in rural areas as compared to urban. And that’s here the problem lies! These pregnancies not only make the adolescent girls vulnerable, it also places their babies at risk. And such pregnancies lead to abortions and further damage to internal reproductive system.

• More than 50% of adolescent females who are married have already given birth to children. The prevalence of teenage pregnancies is inversely proportional to their levels of education. Such pregnancies are higher in poor and lower caste households.

• And what’s alarming is the increasing rate of infant deaths caused by anaemia. About 50% teenage girls are anaemic and this is because many adolescent expectant mothers consumed iron tablets during pregnancy.

• 12% of World’s pregnancies happen in India. Shocked? India has one of the highest rates of early marriages in the world.

• Law enforcement hesitates to get involved, even though it is illegal for under 18 girls to marry. Largely because early marriage is sanctioned by culture and social norm. And the worst affected state in India is Bihar where around 70% of females get married by the age of 18 and get pregnant around their early twenties.

• When girls start menstruating, their potential to get married and bear children takes primacy. They are married off early as families worry that they could engage in romantic relationships outside. And it’s believed to bring“dishonour” to their family and clan.

• Financial considerations also play a role in early marriage. Dowry demands and “suitability issues” increase with age. In addition to that, when a family has more than one daughter, they find it economical to get both the younger and the older one married at the same time to reduce the cost of multiple weddings.

• Low dietary intake, deficient in fruits and vegetables and milk adds to poor nutritional status in women.

Unfortunately in India, early marriage and consequent pregnancy is often not a deliberate choice. It’s rather the result of an absence of choices and also because of circumstances which are out of a girl’s control.

Sadly, not much has changed in India. Early marriages, teenage pregnancies, adolescent malnutrition continue to persist even today and all these statistics are quite disturbing in our country. 

Robust measures and policies to end teenage marriage and pregnancies are exactly what India needs at present!

Continuing education, exploring employment opportunities and delaying marriage and pregnancy are not less than challenges for Indian girls that are reinforced through patriarchy and social norms.

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