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Adolescent Health

Much of what I’ve read and heard over the years about teen pregnancy tends to incorporate social norms regarding the acceptability of adolescent pregnancy – or sometimes, the lack there of. 

Some literature focuses on poverty, education and societal impacts.

For example, “according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, using 2004 data, it is estimated that, in Colorado, the average annual cost to society per incidence of teen childbearing (age 17 and under) is over $4,000 (including child welfare system costs, costs associated with higher rates of incarceration of people born to teen parents, health care costs, and lost tax revenue.)” 

But putting aside all the issues of maturity, finances, education and poverty, what about the physical health of a teen mom and her baby?

This is an interesting article about the reproductive and sexual health of adolescents. It’s part of an adolescent reporting series by the Lancet Global Health Network

Keep in mind, it’s from 2007 which isn’t too long ago, but …

Some interesting statements/facts from the piece and reasons why my project is important:

“Today’s generation of adolescents is the largest in history.”

“Nearly half of the global population is less than 25 years old.”

“Negative outcomes of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, threaten the health of people in the second decade of life more than any other age group.”

“Biologically, the immature reproductive and immune systems of adolescent girls translate to increased susceptibility to STIs and HIV transmission; pregnancy and delivery for those with incomplete body growth exposes them to problems that are less common in adult women.”

Adolescents = 10-19 yr olds, according to the U.N/WHO. 

***

This article is speaking on the world, not just the United States. However, much of the information about adolescent health can be applied globally. 

To begin, what I find interesting is the age range which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as the period of adolescence. Presumably, the period is meant to identify a transition, but the differences that can exist – mentally, physically and emotionally – between a 10-year-old and a 19-year-old – are vast. 

But, what’s equally important – and a relevant argument for reducing adolescent pregnancy – is maintaining the health and safety of the mom and baby.

I am by no means a health expert, but there is a condition that is present among adolescents called cervical ectopy. In such a case, some of the interior cervical tissue extends to the outer cervical canal.  This tissue is more delicate and more susceptible to both damage and STIs. 

According to an article published in the Journal of the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association,

“The body and cervix of the uterus begin to increase in volume 2 to 3 years before menarche. Newly secreted ovarian hormones at puberty are believed to cause increased intracervical edema. Because of anatomical constraints, the enlarged endocervix can only expand downward and outward, which causes eversion, thereby exposing more endocervical columnar cells on the ectocervix. A zone of ectopy is thus created.”

Hormonal contraception and sexual activity can also affect the physiology of the cervix.

***

Some of the other reasons teen pregnancy is a continued and timely concern. This is from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

“Teen pregnancy accounts for more than $9 billion per year in costs to U.S. taxpayers for increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers.

  • Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school drop out rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22, versus nearly 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.
  • The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and drop out of high school, have more health problems, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.”
  • Additionally relevant, in Colorado, more than half of the births to teen moms (aged 15-19-years-old) are to Latina mothers.

    This post feels a bit scattered, because it is. The topic of teen pregnancy is expansive. But keeping the spotlight on the issue will hopefully help reduce the frequency of teen pregnancy, regardless of how scattered the process feels.

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