World Population Day (July 10, 2013) & Adolescent Pregnancies  

 The world’s population has doubled in the last fifty years. Now 7 billion, the latest UN projection is that aggregate numbers will approach 11 billion by century’s end.  But we should not regard these projections as absolutes. As the UN notes, future population numbers depend largely on what we do to affect birth rates. Particularly in Africa these remain much higher than the 2.1 children per couple necessary for a stable population.

 Canada’s population is growing and at a substantial rate, due entirely to immigration.

Adolescent pregnancies are also on the rise in Canada.  After years of decline, numbers have spiked dramatically to 28.2 babies per 1000 teens. Of the myriad of factors at play, socio-economic woes appear to be the greatest cause, with teenage girls more likely to get pregnant when they have fewer education or job opportunities.  Demographically, high teen pregnancy rates usually mean people are suffering somewhat more at a broader, less individual level.  In Western countries, young women who are optimistic about their educational and career futures tend not to get pregnant. 

 Adolescent pregnancy rates also drop when young, economically impoverished women have easy access to long-term, reversible contraception such as IUDs and implants, the latter not available in Canada.  Delaying first pregnancy can be a game changer, enabling teenage girls to have far greater opportunities in life.  This requires an understanding of what it is to be a girl in society and to tackle holistically factors that affect her sexual and reproductive health and rights relating to child marriage, coerced sex, girls’ education and access to family planning.

 Population Day 2013 focuses on adolescent pregnancy, recognizing there are an estimated 16 million teenage pregnancies worldwide every year.  These carry greater risks of complications, including serious injuries and conditions such as obstetric fistula, as well as higher incidences of stillbirth, miscarriage and maternal death. In Africa, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading killer of adolescent girls.

 PIC Notes: Employment opportunities and equal rights for women, together with easy access to family planning, almost always result in smaller families and a reduction in teenage pregnancy rates.  These should be priorities at home and in respect of Canada’s international aid efforts.  Moreover, governments, including our own, should encourage people to have smaller families, central to promoting sustainable societies.