Six million unwanted pregnancies and two million unsafe abortions could be avoided each year by helping teenage girls in developing countries to get reliable contraception, researchers said on Friday.
More action is needed to help girls plan their families, said researchers from the Guttmacher Institute, a U.S.-based organisation focused on sexual health and reproductive rights.
“It’s vital for young people be able to control whether and when they want to have children,” Elizabeth Sully, a senior research scientist at the Institute, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Giving them that control allows them to make other choices that improve their health and well-being and also reduce maternal deaths, unsafe abortions and unintended pregnancies.”
About 20 million girls aged between 15 and 19 in the developing world were sexually active but did not want a child for at least two years and lacked access to reliable contraception, researchers said.
More than three quarters of them were using no contraceptive method at all, while the remaining group used less effective techniques including withdrawal or abstinence when they thought they were fertile.
It would cost an average of $25 per person to provide contraception to every girl who needed it in the developing world – adding up to a total of $889 million worldwide each year, researchers found.
Doing so would result in 2.4 million fewer unplanned births and 2.9 million fewer abortions annually – two thirds of which would have been unsafe.