There’s a need to end teenage pregnancies in India, it’s harming the national economy

There’s a need to end teenage pregnancies in India, it’s harming the national economy


In India, teen pregnancy is nearly double in rural areas (9.2 per cent) compared to urban areas (5 per cent).


Adolescence is defined as the period between childhood and adulthood during which structural, functional, and psychosocial development occurs. As a result, pregnancy during adolescence can be harmful to one's health because the adolescent female in question has yet to reach her full growth potential. Furthermore, adolescent pregnancies have an impact on social development and the national economy, according to reports.


According to a UN report, teenage pregnancies cost India $7.7 billion per year in economic losses. An earlier estimate by the health ministry put the economic costs of teenage pregnancies at 12% of the gross domestic product  (GDP).


In India, teen pregnancy is nearly double in rural areas (9.2 per cent) compared to urban areas (5 per cent). Here's the issue: these pregnancies not only make adolescent girls extremely vulnerable, both physically and mentally, but they also endanger them and their babies. Pregnancies of this type are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, abortion, and other negative outcomes.


In India, more than half of married adolescents have already given birth to children. According to statistics, the prevalence of adolescent pregnancies is inversely proportional to their level of education. At least 20% of women who became pregnant as teenagers had no formal education. There is also a higher prevalence of teenage pregnancies in the poorest wealth quintile, at 10.6 per cent, and a lower prevalence in the richest quintile, at 2.5 per cent. Similarly, teenage pregnancies are more common in scheduled tribe communities than in other castes


Although the trend of early marriages is declining, at least 27% of women marry before reaching the legal marriage age of 18. The trend is higher in West Bengal (44%), Bihar (42%), Jharkhand (39%), and Andhra Pradesh (36%), and lower in Lakshadweep (5%), Jammu and Kashmir (39%), and Kerala (36%). (9 per cent). This graph depicts the relationship between high rates of adolescent marriage and low levels of education.


What is concerning is the rising number of maternal and infant deaths caused by anaemia. Anaemia affects approximately 54.1 per cent of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19, with a slightly higher incidence in rural areas than in urban areas. This is due to the fact that only 28.1 per cent of adolescent expectant mothers took iron and folic acid tablets, which are critical in preventing anaemia during pregnancy.


Similarly, at least 42 per cent of adolescent girls in India have a BMI of less than 18.5. As a result, pregnancy in such a vulnerable state perpetuates the malnutrition cycle and causes neonatal and infant deaths. A recent study discovered that children born to adolescent mothers have higher stunting and underweight rates. Low education, poor nutritional status, and high anaemia rates all contribute to the vicious cycle. Low dietary intake with a diet deficient in fruits and milk, as well as wide variation in consumption of foods from required food groups across states, contributes to women's poor nutritional status.


Unfortunately, little has changed in India in terms of child marriage, adolescent pregnancy, and adolescent malnutrition. It is concerning, given that India is expected to have the largest national adolescent girl population by 2030, with 95 million; and it is precisely for this reason that measures to reduce child marriages and teenage pregnancies are necessary in order to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.


In 2014, the national adolescent health programme "Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram" (RKSK) was launched. RKSK gives a boost to adolescent health interventions by refocusing on community-based health promotion and prevention in tandem with clinical-based preventive and curative services.


However, this is only on paper. The problems of early marriage, adolescent pregnancy, anaemia, and a high rate of maternal mortality persist. Poor programme implementation is most likely to blame here. The need of the hour is for a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to addressing all of the needs of adolescents. Strong measures and policies to end adolescent marriages and subsequent pregnancies are exactly what India requires right now.


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