More than 1 billion young people are entering their reproductive years, with another 2 billion to follow, yet many young people lack basic information about and access to services for reproductive and sexual health.
The majority of adolescent pregnancies actually occurs within marriage. Girls under 18 who become pregnant are twice as likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than young women aged 20–24, and girls under age 15 may be five times as likely to die. Age is not a contraindication for any method of contraception, although methods such as sterilization are in most cases inappropriate. However, adolescents often have high rates of discontinuation of FP methods, in part due to concerns about side effects or lack of understanding of how to use the method correctly. Judgmental attitudes, locations of health centers, and inconvenient hours of services often make it difficult for youth to get the health services they need.
Delaying the onset of sexual activity and first pregnancy, and increasing positive health behaviors, including abstinence, partner reduction, and use of contraceptives such as condoms, will help protect young people’s health and quality of life. “Youth-friendly” FP as well as the prevention and management of STIs/HIV are central components of health services for youth. These services should also include age-appropriate education and counseling on responsible sexual behavior, FP, STI/HIV prevention, and pregnancy care, as well as counseling on and referral for gender-based violence and sexual abuse, for both young men and women.
The active involvement of youth as partners in the planning and implementation programs can help ensure that the program is relevant to their needs, increases ownership, and takes advantage of young people’s expertise and energy in developing strategies and messages for effectively reaching their peers.
Key Resources for Youth FP: