Teenage pregnancy is not a public health problem

December 13, 2001

Letter: Teenage pregnancy is not in fact a public health problem BMJ Volume 323, pp 1428

Teenage pregnancy is not a public health problem, but is really a reflection of what is considered to be socially, culturally, and economically acceptable in the United Kingdom, argue researchers in this week's BMJ.

Women having babies in their 30s and 40s are not labelled a public health problem, and neither are women who have problems conceiving, even though their babies have an increased risk of prenatal death, write Debbie Lawlor and colleagues from the University of Bristol. There is no biological reason to suggest that having a baby before the age of 20 is associated with ill health, they add.

Current policy in the United Kingdom aims, firstly to halve the conception rate of the under 18s and set a downward trend in the rate for under 16s by 2010 and, secondly, to achieve a reduction in the risk of long term social exclusion of teenage parents and their children. "We would argue that the second of these goals is the appropriate public health aim, and yet most action is likely to be geared towards the first."

"Teenage pregnancy is not a public health problem; the cumulative effect of social and economic exclusion on the health of mothers and their babies, whatever their age, is," they conclude.
-end-


BMJ

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