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Teen pregnancy may be connected to premature death: Study

A new study found that women who were pregnant as teenagers are more likely to die in early adulthood than women who did not have teen pregnancies.

The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, found that in a sample of 2.2 million female teenagers aged 12 to 19 from Ontario, Canada, the risk of premature death was higher among women who had one or more pregnancies than among those who had never been pregnant.

The risk of premature death was 1.9 per 10,000 person-years among women who have not been pregnant, 4.1 among women who had one pregnancy and 6.2 among those who had two or more pregnancies. The risk was pronounced for those who had been pregnant before the age of 16.

The study examined the more than 2 million teenagers who experienced a pregnancy from 1991 to 2021, with the median age of pregnancy at 18 years old. Of those who had a teen pregnancy, more than 106,000 received an abortion, while 60,000 gave birth.

Researchers found that while teenagers who had an induced abortion were at a high risk of premature death, people who gave birth or had a miscarriage had a higher risk.

“Although direct deaths during teen pregnancy and childbirth are rare — predominantly from hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, or sepsis — teen pregnancy may be a marker of adverse life experiences preceding and/or during the formative teen years,” the study said.

The study pointed to the links between sexual and emotional abuse, parental divorce or separation or income decline and subsequent teen pregnancies, substance use and suicide. A stable family, school and peer support, open communication with adult mentors about contraception, free access to contraception and female empowerment to abstain from unwanted intercourse are factors that prevent adolescent pregnancy, the study said.

“It remains to be determined whether there is an additive value in including teenage pregnancy in the prevention of premature mortality among young and middle-aged women,” the study concluded.

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