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  • Posted March 15, 2024

Teen Pregnancy May Raise Risk of Early Death

Teen pregnancy can change the trajectory of one's life, but now a new study suggests it could also shorten that life.

Canadian researchers report that women who were pregnant as teenagers were more likely to die before they reached the age of 31.

“The younger the person was when they became pregnant, the greater their risk was of premature death,” study first author Dr. Joel Ray, an obstetric medicine specialist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto told the New York Times. “Some people will argue that we shouldn't be judgmental about this, but I think we've always known intuitively that there's an age that is too young for pregnancy.”

The study, published March 14 in the journal JAMA Network Open, turned to a health insurance registry to track pregnancy outcomes among just over 2 million teenagers in Ontario, Canada. That database included all girls who were 12 between April 1991 and March 2021.

What did they find?

Even after weighing confounding factors like other health issues, income and education, teens who carried pregnancies to term were more than twice as likely to suffer premature death.

The picture was just as dire for teenagers had ectopic pregnancies, in which the fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, or pregnancies that ended in stillbirth or miscarriage.

While the dangers dropped somewhat among women who had terminated a pregnancy as teenagers, those women were still 40 percent more likely to die prematurely, compared with those who had not been pregnant as teens.

Still, the greatest odds of premature death were seen among women who became pregnant before they were 16 and those who were pregnant more than once as teenagers.

Exactly what cut their lives short?

Injuries -- both assaults and self-inflicted -- were most often the direct reasons for early death, the analysis found.

Women who had been pregnant as teenagers were more than twice as likely to die young of an unintentional injury, while they were twice as likely to die from a self-inflicted injury.

Elizabeth Cook, a scientist with Child Trends, a research organization focused on youth, noted in a commentary accompanying the study that teen pregnancy may not actually be a causal factor in premature mortality.

Instead, it may reflect a host of other influences, including adverse childhood experiences, that raise the odds of an early death.

Still, teen pregnancy itself can be a contributor.

"Teens who become pregnant often experience stigmatization and isolation that can make it more difficult to thrive in adulthood, especially if they lack the necessary support to navigate such a significant decision," Cook wrote.

The findings "are a sobering reminder that pregnant teens -- instead of being judged for their decisions -- should be encouraged to make decisions that they feel are best for themselves and be connected with supportive services to help them receive adolescent-friendly health care, complete their education, learn about healthy relationships, and receive mentoring from compassionate people."

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on teen pregnancy.

SOURCE: New York Times

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