Why Teenage Pregnancy Carries Those Extra Risks

A large-scale study has offered new insights into some of the risks associated with teenage pregnancy, from premature mortality to self-harm.


Teen pregnancy, while not typically fatal, can negatively impact both the young parent and their child’s future well-being. It often sets the stage for a cascade of challenges, potentially leading to premature mortality for the teen parent either shortly after childbirth or in the subsequent years.

This correlation may stem from the myriad difficulties faced by teenage parents, particularly when they are still in the midst of their cognitive development. However, existing research into the link between teen pregnancies and premature mortality has been hindered by limitations such as small sample sizes, thereby obscuring the full extent of the issue.

A recent study conducted by Dr. Joel G. Raya scientist in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine at the University of Torontoalong with other researchers examined the occurrence of premature deaths among a large sample of young females who had pregnancies during their teenage years. They published their findings in the JAMA Network

The researchers analyzed data from over two million females aged 12 and up in Ontario between 1991 and 2021. The number of teen pregnancies, the nature of the pregnancy, and the age at which the first pregnancy occurred were each associated with the risk of premature mortality. 

Results showed that 7% of all the females had been pregnant as teens. Among these teens, the risk of dying early was much higher for those who had two or more pregnancies during their adolescent years. This was especially notable for females who experienced pregnancies that ended in miscarriage or live birth rather than stillbirths or ectopic pregnancies. 

Moreover, females who experienced their first pregnancy before the age of 16 faced the highest risk of premature death. The researchers also identified that females with a teen pregnancy had a higher proportion of self-harm history during their teenage years compared to those who did not experience pregnancy. 

This large-scale study underscores a serious issue: teens who experience pregnancy are markedly more susceptible to early mortality and instances of self-harm. This suggests that teen pregnancy may serve as a crucial indicator of future health challenges, emphasizing the importance of proactive intervention.

For instance, the researchers highlight the necessity for enhanced support systems tailored to pregnant teens. This could include counselling services, readily accessible contraception, and empowerment programs designed specifically for young females.

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Alexandria (Alex) Samson is a PhD student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. She completed her BSc in Neuroscience from Dalhousie University. Alex is a strong believer in open science and is passionate about making scientific research accessible to all audiences.