Home Emergencies: preparadness and response Injury prevention Child protection HIV and AIDS Malaria Hygiene Coughs, colds and more serious illnesses Diarrhoea Immunization Nutrition and growth Breastfeeding Child development and early learning Safe motherhood and newborn health Timing births

The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust



Follow MotherChild on Twitter  Connect with MotherChild on Facebook  Subscribe to HealthPhone on YouTube
Facts for Life

Timing Births

Supporting Information


Pregnancy before the age of 18 or after the age of 35 increases the health risks for the mother and her baby.

Why it is important - All key messages - Resources

Every year over 500,000 women die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. For every woman who dies, approximately 20 more develop infections and severe disabling problems – adding up to more than 10 million women affected each year. Access to and use of family planning services could prevent many of these deaths and disabilities.

Throughout this publication, references to pregnant women include pregnant adolescents.

It is important to note that the pregnant adolescent is at increased risk of pregnancy complications such as eclampsia, premature labour, prolonged labour, obstructed labour, fistula, anaemia and death.

For her baby, there is a greater risk of premature birth, low birthweight, health problems and death.

For the pregnant adolescent under 15 years of age, these risks increase substantially.

Delaying a first pregnancy until a girl is at least 18 years of age helps to ensure a safer pregnancy and childbirth. It reduces the risk of her baby being born prematurely and/or underweight. This is especially important where early marriage is the custom and married adolescents face pressure to become pregnant.

Childbirth is more likely to be difficult and dangerous for an adolescent than for an adult. Babies born to very young mothers are much more likely to die in the first year of life. Young adolescents do not yet have a fully developed pelvis. Pregnancy for them can result in serious consequences, such as eclampsia, premature labour, prolonged labour, obstructed labour, fistula, anaemia (thin blood) or infant and/or maternal death.

The younger the mother is, the greater the risk to her and her baby. The risk of maternal death related to pregnancy and childbirth for adolescent girls between 15 and 19 years of age accounts for some 70,000 deaths each year. For adolescents under 15 years of age these risks increase substantially. Girls who give birth before age 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties.

Adolescent girls and young women, married or unmarried, need special help to delay pregnancy. All who might be involved with an early pregnancy – adolescent girls and young women and adolescent boys and men as well as their families – should be aware of the risks involved and how to avoid them. This should include information on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.

After the age of 35, the health risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth begin to increase again. The risks may include hypertension (high blood pressure), haemorrhage (loss of blood), miscarriage and gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) for the woman and congenital anomalies (birth defects) for the child.

Foreword  •  Purpose  •  Structure  •  Essential Messages  •  Guide for Using Facts for Life   •  Glossary  •  Contact

The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust
a U.S. 501(c)(3) non profit organization
our portals and sites
HealthPhone™ Mobile Apps
Guide to Child Care
Community Video
Kyunki-Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai
Rehydration Project
Successful Breastfeeding
Disaster Relief
Community Radio
AIDS action
Polio Free
Health Education to Villages
Breast Crawl
Education for Girls
A Simple Solution
Diarrhoea: 7 Point Plan
HIV and Breastfeeding
Rights of the Child
Mother and Child Nutrition
Mother and Child Health
Facts for Life
Education for Boys
Child Protector
Ebola Resources