New Research Challenges Excess Mortality Risk of Adolescent Mothers

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By: Ana Langer, Director of the Maternal Health Task Force and Women and Health Initiative

Over the course of the Safe Motherhood movement, the common wisdom has been that adolescent women have a highly elevated risk of maternal death —roughly two times higher —compared to women in their twenties, and this has led to calls for a focus on the unmet maternal health care needs of adolescent mothers. But research commissioned by the MHTF reveals that —averaged across 38 countries— the maternal mortality ratio for women age 15-19 is just 28 percent higher than among women age 20-24.

Ann K. Blanc, PhD, former MHTF Director, and her colleagues, William Winfrey, PhD, and John Ross, PhD, analyzed available survey data to produce age-specific maternal mortality ratios using Demographic and Health Surveys data from 2000-2008.  The result is a paper titled, “New Findings for MM Age Patterns August 10”. The surprising finding on the comparative mortality risk of adolescents could have significant impact on future policy advocacy and program development.

Filling knowledge gaps is a critical component of the MHTF mandate, and this paper does just that. Challenging assumptions and pursuing neglected areas of research is certain to have positive implications for achieving our collective goal of eradicating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity in our lifetimes.

I hope you find this paper as useful and as illuminating as I have. We welcome your comments.

Access the PDF of the paper here.