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Unplanned Early Pregnancy in Brazil – Working to bring change.



Happy Child International is supporting a project in the northeast of Brazil designed to tackle the issues of unplanned early pregnancy in adolescence and especially in young girls from socially vulnerable backgrounds.  Last year the project supported 20 young mums.  This year it will continue to deliver its services to these mums as well as supporting an additional 5 new expectant mums from low income backgrounds.   We will keep you informed on their progress.


The World Health Organisations states that early unplanned pregnancy is usually a consequence of:

  • Low levels of schooling

  • Poverty and social vulnerability

  • Not enough available knowledge and information about issues around sexuality and birth control

  • Cultural and financial barriers to accessing public services.

  • Young people today engaging in sexual activity at an earlier age.

Early unplanned early pregnancy raises the risk of:

  • Premature babies with lower weight

  • Heightens the risk of peri natal infant death

  • Causes school abandonment because young girls feel ashamed that they are in this situation

  • Of every 1000 women having babies in Brazil the World Bank states that 45 are born to young women between the ages of 15 to 19 years old.

In Brazil there are regional inequalities concerning the number of young girls between the ages of 10 to 19 years old who experience unplanned early pregnancy. Research published in 2021 showed that 18% of the total number of newborns in the state of Pernambuco were to young girls in the 10 – 19 ie 1,222 (0.89%) live births.  In the 15 to 19 years old,23,727 (17,15%).   Just in Recife alone there are a total of 14.4,000 live births a year and 1,929 (13.4%) are to young girls.  


The good news is that the situation in Pernambuco is improving over all.   In 2008 there were 32,730 live births to young girls but in 2018 numbers had fallen to 24,949 with a 4.5% drop.  Nevertheless research concludes that numbers are still too high for this age and stage.  

In Brazil the issue of unplanned early pregnancy can be tackled by investment in:

  • Specific public policies against unplanned early pregnancy

  • Reducing school drop outs

  • Providing comprehensive education on sexuality

  • Developing life skills

  • Promoting social changes and prohibiting early marriages 

Furthermore guidance on contraceptive methods, their availability and encouraging their correct and consistent use are fundamental to responsible sexuality and family planning which are important for the country to acheive sustainable development goal target 3.1 of reducing maternal mortality to 30 per 100 000 women. Post Covid this number has risen to 110.2 maternal deaths  per 100 000 women, the greatest rise in 22 years.


Happy Child International will continue to work with projects addressing the issue of unplanned early pregnancy in low income communities, especially in northeast Brazil.  In this way we are part of the solution to this difficult and challenging issue.


  • Written by Caroline Taylor


Research from the Abrinq Foundation 2023 report

Trends in Teenage Pregnancy in the last 20 years.  From Revista da Associaçaõ Medica Brasilia

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