Teenage childbearing: a growing public health concern in need of urgent policy and program action

“Many of the 600 million adolescent girls living in developing countries remain invisible in national policies and programmes. Millions live in poverty, are burdened by gender discrimination and inequality, and are subject to multiple forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation, such as child labour, child marriage and other harmful practices. The full potential of these girls and their contribution to their communities have yet to be realized”. The United Nations Interagency Task Force on Adolescent Girls, 2010



While there has been a considerable decline in birth rate worldwide, there is growing concern among program and policy makers about the level of adolescent birth rate (ABR, birth per 1,000 women aged 15–19 years), commonly considered an indicator of teenage childbearing, a potential cause of maternal and child morbidity and mortality. This has also been addressed in the fifth Millennium Development Goal. The insufficient performance in reducing ABR led to the establishment of the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Adolescent Girls (UNITFAG) in 2010. The UNITFAG aims to make girls a priority in national development planning and it is expected that by 2015, the task force would have successfully rolled out comprehensive programs in twenty developing countries that will improve their health and education, promote their leadership skills and protect them from violence. In this overview, we discuss both the accomplishments and the barriers faced in addressing ABR globally, and the policies and programs required to tackle them.

Subject and methods

Literature review


We propose a bi-model approach to address the issue of teenage childbearing. The approach includes preventing early marriage and focuses on postponing childbearing among girls who were married at an early age.


The most effective approach to make communities realise how teenage childbearing compromises the health of mothers as well as their children is the targeted community based intervention.

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Correspondence to Rajesh Kumar Rai.

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Rai, R.K., Singh, P.K., Kumar, C. et al. Teenage childbearing: a growing public health concern in need of urgent policy and program action. J Public Health 21, 379–384 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10389-012-0551-6

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  • Teenage childbearing
  • Adolescent
  • Program and policy
  • Millennium Development Goal