Sexual and Reproductive Health

Sexual and Reproductive Health

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7384-5.ch004


Around 1.2 billion people, or one out of every six persons of the world's population, are adolescents, aged 10 to 19 years. Most of them are presumed to be healthy, but there is still substantial premature death, illness, and injury among adolescents. Illnesses hinder the ability of adolescents to grow and develop to their full potential. Early pregnancy and child birth, unprotected sex, and/or exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections can jeopardize not only their current health but also their future health as adults and even the health of their future generations. Promoting healthy behaviors during adolescence and taking steps to better protect young people from health risks are critical for the prevention of health problems in adulthood and for the future health of coming generations as well as their ability to develop and thrive.
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Key Facts

  • Adolescents account for 23percent of the overall burden of disease (disability-adjusted life years) because of pregnancy and childbirth (Patton, Coffey, & Sawyer, 2009).

  • An estimated 16 million births annually occur to young women aged 15-19 years, representing 11percent of all births (Sawyer, Afifi, & Bearinger, 2012).

  • Almost all (95percent) of adolescent births take place in developing countries and 18percent and 50percent of births annually in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, occur during adolescence (Patton, Coffey, & Cappa, 2012).

  • Approximately 2.5 million births occur to girls aged 12-15 years in low-resource countries each year of which around a million births occur to girls younger than 16 years in Africa (Neal, Matthews, & Frost, 2012).

  • Globally, there are 44 births per 1000 adolescent girls, aged 15 to 19 years, per year (United Nations, 2012).



Adolescence is often considered a period of relatively good health. However, adolescents (aged 10 to 19 years) face particular health risks, especially in relation to reproduction and sexuality. Eleven percent of all births and 14 percent of maternal deaths worldwide are among 15 to 19 years old females with 95 percent of adolescent births taking place in developing countries (Patton, Coffey, & Sawyer, 2009; WHO, 2011). Adolescents are also vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies; each year 7.4 million (International Planned Parenthood Federation; 2010) and 3 million girls experience unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions respectively (WHO, 2011).

Adolescent pregnancy and its consequences represent a major public health concern in many low-middle income countries of the world. The World Health Organization has recently developed evidence-based guidelines addressing six areas: preventing early marriage; preventing early pregnancy through sexuality education, increasing educational opportunities and economic and social support programs; increasing the use of contraception; reducing coerced sex; preventing unsafe abortion; and increasing the use of prenatal care childbirth and postpartum care. In each of these areas, World Health Organization recommends directions for future research. This chapter provides an overview of global and regional initiatives that provide a window of opportunity for stepping up action in this important area (Chandra-Mouli, Camacho, & Michaud, 2013).

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