Rwanda: Teenage Pregnancy Has Serious Health Risks

Teen pregnancy is one of the most difficult experiences any young woman can go through. The stress of pregnancy, revelation of pregnancy to parents, and moving on despite the shame and worry can be nerve-racking. Indeed, teenage pregnancy is never easy. It is in this context that Dr David Mwesigye, a gynecologist advises teenagers to opt for contraceptives to avoid healthy risks associated with early pregnancy, arguing that the reproductive system is more mature above the age of 18.

“Young children should use contraceptives instead of risking their lives through unsafe abortions,” Mwesigye said. “Teenagers who are pregnant need understanding, medical care, and proper sensitization but unfortunately, they don’t get these due to fear and other factors,” he added. About 14% of all unsafe abortions in low and middle-income countries are among women aged 15-19 years. About 2.5 million adolescents carry out unsafe abortions annually and they are prone to complications compared to older women, according to a World Health Oganization (WHO) report.

About 16 million women aged between 15 and 19 give birth annually, accounting for 11% of the total births in the world. About 95% of these births occur in low and middle-income countries. Dr Mwesigye added that babies of teen mothers have low birth weight, (under 5.5 pounds), meaning that their organs are not fully developed. This can lead to lung problems such as respiratory distress syndrome or bleeding in the brain. Low birth-weight babies are also more likely to die in their first month of life.

He also mentioned that teenage pregnancy is not only a health issue but also a human rights issue since pregnancy undermines a girl’s ability to exercise her rights to education, health and autonomy. Mwesigye believes the problem can be prevented through open communication and providing guidance relating to sexuality, contraception, and pregnancy-related risks.

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