Cuba Registers a Teenage Pregnancy Rate Close to That of Haiti and El Salvador

Young pregnant women in a maternal hospital in the province of Camagüey, in Cuba. (IPS/File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 January 2023 — The high rate of teenage pregnancies is not one of the indicators in public health that Cuba can boast about, with fertility among minors under 19 years of age in the range of countries with low educational and health levels in the Americas. The issue was addressed by the official press on Monday, which recognizes that “bad results are ’above’ what is expected and desired.”

Cuba has a teenage fertility rate of 51.10 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19, according to 2018 data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Thus, it is in the 16th position of 35 countries on the American continent. Of the statistics available on the institution’s portal, Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest average, of up to 53.2 births per 1,000 women.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Island is very far from the level of 16.70 pregnancies per 1,000 adolescents that the United States has or the 2.0 registered in Sweden. Cuba is approaching the rank of nations such as Haiti, with 54.80, or El Salvador, with 51.80, both immersed in an economic crisis and with low access to education.

The oficial State newspaper Granma summarized the results of the National Program for the Advancement of Women (PAM) shared in a meeting held on Sunday with senior leaders of the Communist Party and the Ministry of Public Health, in which it was concluded that “the high incidence of pregnancy in adolescent ages is an urgent matter.”

The Government says that the percentage fell in the last year from 18.1% to 17.8%. However, four provinces have indices that exceed the national average. Las Tunas has the highest figure, of 22.7%, followed by Holguín (21.3%), Camagüey (20.5%) and Granma (20.3%).

Granma reports that the Government’s proposal is to reduce the fertility rate in adolescence by at least 50%, as well as to ensure 80% coverage and diversity of contraceptive methods. Tania Margarita Cruz Hernández, first deputy minister of Public Health, considered that a solution is to “intensify the work of sex education in schools, in the community and with the family,” and opined that it is time to resume television programs related to the subject.

Teenage pregnancies were a topic of discussion in the provincial press two weeks ago, when an article in El Artemiseño pointed out that of the 4,631 births recorded at the end of 2022 in Artemisa, 16% corresponded to pregnancies of women between 15 and 19 years of age and 31% of births were to women between 20 and 24 years of age.

The newspaper noted the alarming figures of 2021, when the municipality of Alquízar recorded the highest rate of fertility in adolescents — up to 91.9 births per 1,000 women — according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (Onei). Bahía Honda and Güira de Melena also showed scandalous figures, with 65 and 60.6, respectively.

The newspaper cited an interview with Alquízar’s Community Genetics specialist, Lidia Peña Martínez, who said that most teenage pregnancies occur in “dysfunctional families with a low cultural and economic level.”

According to WHO data, Cuba is approaching the rank of nations such as Haiti, with 54.80, or El Salvador, with 51.80. (WHO)

Peña Martínez listed the causes, which, according to her, explain the upsurge of cases: “The increasingly early onset of sexual relations, the inadequate methods to learn about sexuality issues, the concern of women about not being accepted within the social group, immorality without adequate perception of risk and, in recent times, the lack of contraceptive pills and condoms.”

Teenage pregnancies are a public health problem, which has socio-economic consequences. In countries with low social indicators, young women are pressured to get married and have children in the face of a small window to access higher education or to get a decent job. Some, even when they are minors, are forced to marry.

The WHO warns that adolescent mothers are at greater risk of health problems such as eclampsia, puerperal endometritis and systemic infections compared to women between the ages of 20 and 24. Babies can be born underweight, and there is a risk of premature births or even the death of the mother and the newborn.

The disastrous figures are also affected by the shortage of condoms, a recurring issue in Cuban clinics and pharmacies. The consequences are already being experienced, and the health authorities of Guantánamo have confirmed that the province suffered a rebound in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies and abortionss at the end of 2022.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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