More than seven million girls younger that 18 give birth every year, and two million of those girls are 14 or younger, according to a new report.
The study out Wednesday from the United Nations Population Fund found that girls who give birth under the age of 14 are especially vulnerable to obstetric fistula and maternal death, and often suffer social and economic consequences as well.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the group’s executive director, said communities often blame the girl for getting pregnant. “The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control,” he said in a statement. “It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.”
But early pregnancy isn’t just bad for young girls; it also sucks money from developing economies. The report estimates that if the 200,000 adolescent mothers in Kenya were working instead of raising children, $3.4 billion more could have poured into the economy, the equivalent of Kenya’s construction sector. If the teenage mothers in India had worked, economic productivity would have spiked by $7.7. billion.