• Infants and children born after short birth intervals also face a relatively high risk of stunting and being underweight during the first five years of life.
• The World Health Organization recommendation of attempting the next pregnancy after live birth is at least 24 months
When women younger than 18 years old become pregnant, the mothers and their newborns face increased risks of health complications compared to women aged 20-24 years old.
Infants and children born after short birth intervals also face a relatively high risk of stunting and being underweight during the first five years of life. The World Health Organization recommendation of attempting the next pregnancy after live birth is at least 24 months, while after a miscarriage or induced abortion, the recommended interval to the next pregnancy is at least six months. This is to reduce the risk of adverse maternal, infant, or perinatal (the period of time when a woman become pregnant and up to a year after giving birth) outcomes.
Poor healthy timing and spacing for pregnancy are common in Kenya, especially among adolescents and young people. The National Council on Population and Development reports that annually, the country records 1.6 million deliveries out of which between 200,000 and 400,000 are deliveries of mothers below the age of 18. This is apprehensive.
When first pregnancy is too soon or occurs to adolescents less than 18 years old they’re at a higher risk of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension, anaemia, and prolonged or obstructed labour often leading to maternal or perinatal death.
Studies also reveal, if no interventions are done within six months after delivery an underage mother is at risk of repeat pregnancy which then becomes too soon, exposing her to further potential health risks associated with short pregnancy spacing intervals.
The Ministry of Health through Principal Secretary Susan Mochache earlier this month affirmed the government’s commitment to addressing the issue of maternal and perinatal mortalities, through budgetary allocation for family planning and reproductive health commodities, which has gradually increased annually.
Apart from women giving birth without skilled birth attendants, the Health ministry should also prioritise HTSP as a key aspect of addressing the adversities facing the maternal and neonatal health sectors. Through quality access to contraceptive information as well as sexuality education among adolescents and young people.
Dollarman Fatinato is a project assistant at the Centre for the Study of Adolescence