Protecting and promoting SRHR of adolescents and young adults

Early and unintended pregnancies put at risk the health and lives of young women and girls. Around the world, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death and the third highest cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost for 15–19-year-old girls. Pregnant adolescents also face a higher risk of severe conditions such as eclampsia than women aged 20 to 24 years.

Adolescents happy

A health care conversation with a young person is incomplete if it does not mention sexual health, including safe, consensual, pleasurable sex, contraception and infection prevention. Yet despite this, so many young women and girls do not have access to the education or information they need to make safe and informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, including on abortions.

Legal restrictions, stigma, community norms and beliefs, and a lack of awareness of information and availability of safe abortion options are just some of the reasons why young people with an unwanted pregnancy may resort to unsafe abortion. Of the estimated 5.6 million abortions that occur each year among adolescents aged 15–19 years old, 3.9 million are unsafe. As a result, young girls account for nearly a third of all unsafe abortion-related deaths each year. Early and comprehensive sexual education, access to accurate information about safe sexual practices, access to safe abortion services, and effective contraception and infection prevention all contribute to the prevention of these deaths.

Obstetricians, gynaecologists and those in related health care professions can prevent this needless risk of morbidities and loss of life for so many young women and girls. By having open and honest conversations on safe sex, contraception and infection prevention, we can protect the health and lives of young people by ensuring they are aware of their safe reproductive health care options. Access to accurate information and affordable, safe and acceptable products enables young people to access the services they need to protect their health, lives and futures. It is therefore essential for national Universal Health Coverage programmes to make contraception available to all young people who need and ask for it.

That’s why, in its latest official statement, FIGO is calling on all health care providers working in public-sector institutions or private practice to commit to discussing sexual and reproductive health – including contraception, infection prevention and safe sex – in their conversations with young people. By doing so, we can together improve young people’s physical and mental health, save lives and help them to pursue the educational and economic futures of their choice.

Please help to spread these messages among your colleagues.

Download this toolkit for messages you can share with your networks. And share this article now – copy and paste the following to Twitter.

Complications during #pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death globally for 15–19-year-olds.

By having open and honest conversations on #contraception, young people can be empowered to protect their health and save lives.

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