Adolescent birth rate

Adolescent birth rate

Adolescent birth rate

The number of births to women ages 15–19 per 1,000 women in that age group per year (WHO 2010). This is a subset of Age Specific Fertility Rates (ASFR).

Data Requirement(s):

The number of births in a given year or reference period classified by mothers 15-19 and the number of women in the same age range.

Vital statistics (numerator only); population censuses or population-based surveys such as DHS

Adolescent birth rate is a progress indicator for the Millennium Development Goal target 5.B for achieving universal access to reproductive health (UNFPA, 2010). Adolescent fertility is high in many targeted countries, which means that many young women face an elevated risk of maternal death and disability. Newborns and infants of adolescent mothers are also at higher risk of low birth weight and mortality. This indicator is of particular interest in countries, cities, or districts with adolescent reproductive health interventions designed to reduce unintended pregnancy. Although the adolescent birth rate is rarely used as an outcome measure in evaluating such programs (due to the human, financial, and logistic resources needed to collect the data), it is a variable that program administrators and policy makers track over time as a macro-level indicator of program effectiveness combined with non-program influences.

The adolescent birth rate is affected by differences or changes in the number or percent of adolescents exposed to the risk of pregnancy. Thus, changes in the rate may provide misleading information regarding the impact of family planning programs on fertility when other factors affecting risk of pregnancy are changing (for example, when age at marriage is rising quickly for the 15-19 age group).

family planning, adolescent, safe motherhood (SM)

About 14 million women and girls between ages 15 and 19 (both married and unmarried) give birth each year and complications of pregnancy and childbirth for this age group are a leading cause of death, with unsafe abortion being a major factor (UNFPA, 2005). Adolescent mothers are more likely to have children with low birth weight, inadequate nutrition and anemia, and these young women are more likely to develop cervical cancer later in life. Moreover, early childbearing is linked to obstetric fistula, a devastating and socially isolating condition that can leave women incontinent, disabled, and in chronic pain.  Globally, early childbearing often results for women in higher total fertility, lost development opportunities, limited life options, and poorer health.

WHO, 2008 Adolescent Pregnancy Fact Sheet.

UNFPA, 2010 How Universal is Access to Reproductive Health? A review of the evidence.

UNFPA, 2005, ‘The Promise of Gender Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the MDGs’, State of the World Population 2005, New York; UNFPA.

Related content

Family Planning (Core)

Safe Motherhood