Background High levels of maternal mortality and large associated inequalities exist in low-income and middle-income countries. Adolescent pregnancies remain common, and pregnant adolescent women face elevated risks of maternal mortality and poverty. We examined the distribution across socioeconomic groups of maternal deaths and impoverishment among adolescent girls (15–19 years old) in Niger, which has the highest total fertility rate globally, and India, which has the largest number of maternal deaths.
Methods In Niger and India, among adolescent girls, we estimated the distribution per income quintile of: the number of maternal deaths; and the impoverishment, measured by calculating the number of cases of catastrophic health expenditure incurred, caused by complicated pregnancies. We also examined the potential impact on maternal deaths and poverty of increasing adolescent girls' level of education by 1 year. We used epidemiological and cost inputs sourced from surveys and the literature.
Results The number of maternal deaths would be larger among the poorer adolescents than among the richer adolescents in Niger and India. Impoverishment would largely incur among the richer adolescents in Niger and among the poorer adolescents in India. Increasing educational attainment of adolescent girls might avert both a large number of maternal deaths and a significant number of cases of catastrophic health expenditure in the 2 countries.
Conclusions Adolescent pregnancies can lead to large equity gaps and substantial impoverishment in low-income and middle-income countries. Increasing female education can reduce such inequalities and provide financial risk protection and poverty alleviation to adolescent girls.
- PUBLIC HEALTH
- REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE
- HEALTH ECONOMICS
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