16 December 2016: About 21 million 15-19 year old girls in developing countries become pregnant every year, and nearly half of these pregnancies (49%) are unintended. 38 million 15-19 year old adolescent girls are at risk of pregnancy but do not want a child in the next two years, but only 40% are using a modern method of contraception (1).
In order to prevent unintended pregnancies, and to ensure that adolescents do not suffer poor reproductive and sexual health outcomes, a better understanding of the specific sexual and reproductive health challenges and needs of adolescents is required.
An improved understanding can help to inform the development of effective interventions which can safeguard adolescents’ sexual and reproductive well-being. Disaggregated data on information and service needs for contraception – particularly data which are broken down by age and marital status – are crucial.
New WHO resource
In recognition of this, WHO has launched a set of fact sheets which disaggregate existing data to highlight key information on the use and non-use of contraceptives by adolescents (ages 15-19) in 58 low and middle-income countries across the world.
Adolescent contraceptive use
Ensuring access to contraceptives for adolescents is one of several key interventions recommended to help ensure adolescents’ sexual and reproductive well-being. The new WHO fact sheets include information on how, when and where different groups of sexually active adolescents – including those in a union and unmarried and sexually active – use and do not use contraception.
The fact sheets highlight how adolescents acquire contraception from a variety of sources. In addition, they help to uncover the reasons why adolescents do not use contraception. Countries may find it helpful to have this information when working to ensure high quality contraception information and services for adolescents and also to develop policies and programmes that can better address adolescents’ needs.
How the fact sheets were compiled
The fact sheets are secondary data analyses of existing data from the Demographic and Health Survey Program (DHS), which conducts nationally representative surveys in low-and middle-income countries. This survey has been conducted a number of times, but the WHO fact sheets use only the most recent data. This includes the most recently collected data from any country where a survey has been conducted in the past ten years (2006-2016) and where the data are publically available.
Survive, thrive and transform
The Sustainable Development Goals and renewed Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, places emphasis on the importance of improving understanding of the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents. This is crucial to ensure that adolescents not only survive but thrive and transform their communities.