Adolescent Mothers at Risk

Ashfika Rahman

In Kamrangirchar (Bangladesh), many girls are married at a young age and face early parenthood. However, the needs of these girls and young women are often overlooked in the health sector.

Traditional gender roles can mean that they lack the power to make their own decisions about their health issues. This is especially true for girls and young women who do not have the financial means themselves to get the medical help they would need.

Bangladesh has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in South Asia, with one in ten girls having a child before the age of 15. Despite substantial progress in reducing maternal mortality over the past two decades, the issue of teenage pregnancy (ages 10-19) is still prevalent in Bangladesh.

Although the legal age of marriage for girls is 18 in Bangladesh, approximately 66% of women marry before that age. The main cause of teenage pregnancy is therefore the high rate of child marriage. In addition, girls who are not physically and emotionally mature enough for pregnancy and childbirth are at greater risk of succumbing to maternal morbidities.

The most recent (2014) Bangladesh DHS data show that among adolescent girls, about 20 percent receive no prenatal care, while 58 percent of deliveries occur at home without the assistance of skilled personnel. International data further show that infants born to adolescent mothers may have lower survival rates.

For Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Ashfika traveled to Kamrangirchar in January 2021 and met 17-year-old Rukia as well as other young women, at the MSF community clinic.
This photographic work is part of the More Than a Picture project.

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