Friday, 26 October 2007

Teenage pregnancy and reporting

There have been a number of reports in the last few weeks with headlines ranging from "Teen mums shock" from the Ulster Herald to "UK has 'highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe' " from the Independent.

Unfortunately they largely miss the point. The original report that has prompted these articles is from Population Action International, and is the result of a worldwide survey of 130 countries to demonstrate that "Despite 20 years of campaigning to improve the reproductive health of women throughout the world, the risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth shows the largest gap between the rich and poor of all development statistics. "

It doesn't compare the UK with the rest of western Europe because it doesn't include all of western Europe - Greece, Portugal, Austria are, amongst others, missing. I'm not suggesting that would necessarily change the position of the UK, I don't know the figures, but it is sloppy reporting.

What it does show is that the UK is in the enviable-to-some position of being among the 28 countries with the lowest reproductive risk, and among these are Cuba, China and Singapore from the developing world. All the rest are high income countries. In comparison with other places in the world "Motherhood is safe; skilled care at childbirth is universal and the risk of death from pregnancy or delivery is extremely low. Infant mortality is rare. Contraceptive use is high. Early marriage is rare. Abortion is unrestricted. Adolescent fertility and HIV prevalence are low."

At the opposite end of the scale, skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth is limited; infant and maternal mortality are high or very high; contraceptive use is generally low; there is very high unmet need for contraception; very early marriage is common; adolescent fertility is high; abortion policies are mostly restrictive; levels of HIV infection are moderate to high.

I'm not trying to say that we should be ignoring anything that could be improved in these countries, but we do need to look beyond our immediate horizons.

This narrowly focused reporting is along the lines of "Thousands die, no British people involved". (So that's all right then).


  1. Thanks .... I have mailed you my address to your mail...

  2. Interesting article. Teenage pregnancy is very rare in this country; I've often wondered why, because a study has shown that 50% of Swiss girls have their first sexual intercourse by the age of 16. I think it may have something to do with the fact that a) there are absolutely no incentives to get pregnant in the form of social security benefits and b) the time-honoured tradition of mums taking their daughters of a certain age along to the gynae when they go for their yearly check-up. That's me and her, very soon. :)

    Just a technicality, but I wouldn't call Singapore a developing country.

  3. I would agree with you Orchidea on the matter of Singapore not being a developing country, but I took the words from the PAI report. It did cause me some hesitation.

    I have been half expecting someone to mention it but I couldn't bring myself to change the PAI's wording. Now that I have looked it up, on Wikipedia, it seems there are various definitions. The CIA apparently includes Singapore in the advanced economy list but not on the developed country list.


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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