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Teenage pregnancy

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The rate of teenage pregnancy is higher in Britain than in other European countries. Professional attitudes towards teenage pregnancy tend to be polarised with some considering it undesirable because of increased risks to mother and child while others have argued that teenagers may be well suited for pregnancy and that much harm comes from the stigmatisation of teenage parents. A study in Sweden (

, see also commentary, ibid: 763–4) has shown that teenage mothers there are more likely to die young.

The study included 460 343 women born between 1950 and 1964 and alive in December 1990. All had had a first child before the age of 30. Between 1990 and 1995, 1269 of these women died at ages 30–45 years. Mortality decreased with age at birth of first child from 107 deaths per 100 000 person-years among women whose first child was born when they were 17 years or younger to 87 per 100 000 person-years (first birth at 18–19 years), 54 (20–24 years), and 42 (25–29 years). Overall, early adult mortality in teenage mothers was increased by 60% after adjustment for socioeconomic background at the time of the first birth and age in 1990. The main causes of premature death were violence, cervical cancer, coronary disease, lung cancer, suicide, and alcohol. Adjustment for socioeconomic factors operating after the birth of the first child reduced, but did not eliminate, the increase in risk.

Teenage mothers in Sweden have an increased risk of premature death in later life. Much of the increased risk is associated with adverse socioeconomic and lifestyle factors. The writer of the commentary argues in favour of helping teenagers to avoid pregnancy but also of providing adequate support for pregnant teenagers during and after their pregnancies.