Adolescent Pregnancy in Europe

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Adolescent pregnancy, also known as teenage pregnancy, is defined as "a teenage girl, usually within the ages of 13-19, becoming pregnant" [1] or in everyday speech referring to girls who have not yet reached the legal age of adulthood within their country of residence. The rates of adolescent pregnancy have the ability to vary in industrialized nations versus developing countries. Europe, consisting of approximately fifty countries, provides a portrayal of the large variety of socio-cultural, religious, educational and economic differences that directly play a role in influencing adolescent pregnancy. A social stigma is often seen within developed countries, where as developing nations adopt a more supportive approach in terms of cultural norms with regards to the topic. Acting as a major contributor to maternal and child mortality on a global scale, pregnant teens and adolescent child bearing females are often faced with difficult socio-economic factors that have detrimental effects on the mothers, along with their children. [2] These contrasting circumstances are visible throughout a range of countries consisting of a variety of unique socio-economic factors within Europe as a whole.

Geographic Variation

Having a very diverse population among the countries that make up the continent itself, Europe's adolescent pregnancy rate is geographically spread out on a large scale. Countries of interest containing rather higher or lower than normal values for adolescent pregnancy can be categorized into their appropriate areas of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe and The Mediterranean.

U.K. Office of National Statistics[3]

Western Europe


Holding the lowest teenage pregnancy and adolescent birthrate in Europe as of 2012, 3.4 out of 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 will conceive at a young age.[4] With such a low rate being present, a variety of social determinants may be examined as to having an impact on resulting figures.

United Kingdom

Despite having the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in Western Europe as of 2012 [5] , the U.K. has managed to drop its rate 26.8% since 2004. Having reached the lowest level in the country after 40 years, abortion levels still remain high which directly results from the lack of using a form of contraception as seen through 80% of the U.K.'s sexually active adolescent population. The United Kingdom is an interesting example due to its industrialized nature and high Human Development Index which varies greatly from other developed countries within the continent.


According to the UNICEF, France is also a country in which teenage pregnancy is a major concern. Indeed, it has been reported that 15 out of 1000 girls would get pregnant between 15 and 19 years old. The reasons of those pregnancies vary according to the social and cultural environment of these teenagers. However, The UNICEF reported that mainly, teenage pregnancy was due to a lack of prevention. Therefore, every year in France, 13500 teenagers opt for abortion, a number that keeps increasing.

Eastern Europe


With a rate of 46.7 per 1,000 females, Romania tops the list on Europe's highest adolescent pregnancy list. Ranging in socio-economic background, this nation has a generous population of Romani who are an itinerant ethnic group that adopt traditional values of conception at a very young age.


Italy and Spain

Italy and Spain, having many traditional values and a strong religious following, hold some of the lowest rates consisting of 6 births per 1,000 individuals. This low rate has a correlation with the two countries low abortion rates as well which may be a direct result from having many followers of the Roman Catholic faith who strongly disagree with the subject.


Portugal has the highest rate for countries within the Mediterranean region at 17 births per 1,000 women. Although holding similar traditional and religious values as Spain, Portugal varies in economic factors, directly impacting these rates.

Factors of Geographical Variance

Many factors can play key roles in determining why or how adolescents conceive at a very young age. Factors may include the following: [6]

  • Economic status
  • Quality of life
  • Food security
  • Education level
  • Quality/availability of education
  • Housing
  • Unemployment and employment security
  • Working conditions
  • Social services
  • Health care services
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol

Religious Factors

Consisting of approximately 50 countries, Europe contains a numerous amount of religious denominations. The largest religion in Europe for at least 1500 years has been Christianity. A number of countries in southeastern Europe have Muslim majorities. Smaller religions include Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Hinduism which are found in their largest groups in Britain and France. This variance in religious denomination has the ability to influence individuals and accustom them to different norms as well as cultural/religious practices. Some of these norms and practices may be direct contributors to adolescent pregnancy such as early marriage, or the disapproval of contraceptive use.

Economic Factors

Europe GDP

Having an economy consisting of over 731 million individuals within the continent itself, the distribution of wealth around Europe varies greatly and it can be noted as having an impact on the rate of adolescent pregnancy in contribution to the Social Determinants of Health.[7]

Responses and Action

Various responses and calls to action have been made in order to control rates of adolescent pregnancy whether it be within developing countries or those that are already fully industrialized. In 2011 the World Health Organization published guidelines on preventing adolescent pregnancies and to decrease negative reproductive outcomes. Six main objectives were emphasized that would assist in the prevention of adolescent pregnancy including the following:[8]

  • Reducing marriage before the age of 18
  • Creating understanding and support to reduce pregnancy before the age of 20
  • Increasing the use of contraception by adolescents at risk of unintended pregnancy
  • Reducing coerced sex among adolescents
  • Reducing unsafe abortion among adolescents
  • Increasing use of skilled antenatal, childbirth and postnatal care among adolescents


A variety of societal consequences may accompany adolescent pregnancy ranging from short term to permanent. This may include dropping out of school, low job qualifications, unemployment, poor housing/living conditions, depression and/or living on welfare.[9] The children that are born may also accumulate a certain amount of consequences over time such as poverty, neglect, abuse, involvement in crime, drugs and alcohol use, and perhaps becoming a teen parent themselves.

Medical outcomes may include premature birth, low birth weight, underdevelopment of children, death as well as all accompanied STD's.


  1. "Young People and Family Planning: Teenage Pregnancy" Unicef Fact Sheet
  2. "International Comparisons of Teenage Births" Office of National Statistic UK
  4. "UK still has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in Western Europe..."
  5. "UK still has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in Western Europe..."
  6. "Raphael, D. Social determinants of health: An overview of key issues and themes. Social determinants of health: Canadian perspectives 2nd ed. Canadian Scholar's Press. 2009; 2-19
  7. "Raphael, D. Social determinants of health: An overview of key issues and themes. Social determinants of health: Canadian perspectives 2nd ed. Canadian Scholar's Press. 2009; 2-19
  8. "Fact Sheet N0. 364. Adolescent Pregnancy"
  9. "Young People and Family Planning: Teenage Pregnancy" Unicef Fact Sheet