Since the onset of comprehensive sexual education, teen pregnancy rates have been on the decline. In most developed countries, teens are being taught early on to effectively use birth control, as well as the risks associated with becoming pregnant at a young age. Besides the physical risks, which include low birth weight, anemia and pre-eclampsia, young mothers who are not yet financially independent face a variety of socio-economic issues.
The rate of young mothers highly affects the quality of life and advancement for each country; if a young woman becomes a mother, she is at an increased risk of dropping out of education and may be reliant on the state for financial aid.
Unwanted teen pregnancy, despite its decline, is not close to being brought under control. Areas in the United States where the practice of abstinence is taught over sexual education, like Mississippi and Texas, see far higher rates of teenage pregnancy. Indeed, this is likely a contributing factor to the United States remaining so high on the list when it comes to teenage pregnancies in the developed world.
The following indicates the number of teen pregnancies per 1000 teens in these seven developed countries, ranked from lowest to highest.
7 Netherlands: 12.2 per 1000
Access to comprehensive sex education, as well as essential services such as abortion clinics, contribute to low teen pregnancy and birth rates. This is especially true in the Netherlands, which has one of the lowest rates in the world.
The rate has never been as low as it is now, and will most likely continue to fall in the coming years.
For many aspects of well-being, including income as well as education, the Netherlands is the first place the world looks. Will the rest of the world follow its example?
6 Sweden: 24.9 per 1000
Sweden also has relatively low teenage pregnancy rates. Access to birth control, in particular, contributes to one of the lowest rates of pregnancy and birth in the world. And it seems things will just keep getting better in this regard for Sweden.
The number of teen pregnancies continues to fall, which means that teens are getting constantly improving sexual education and access to resources that prevent and, indeed, terminate pregnancies - teenagers constitute the third largest group of women who seek terminations in the country.
The Nordic countries continue to have both one of the highest levels of education in the world, as well as the highest quality of life, which is further emphasized by their teenage pregnancy rates.
5 Australia: 43.7 per 1000
A drastic jump in pregnancy rates appears in Australia. When comparing it to the Netherlands, it seems as though Australia's sex education system needs some altering. However, teen pregnancy rates are declining here as education and resources improve.
Despite this though, Australian teens find that there is not enough assistance in terms of birth control and abortion services. In addition to this, there is a lot of misinformation on the subject. Another reason for the increased rates may be due to religion, which often contradicts the practical teaching of safe sex methods. In order for rates to drop further, education and resources must improve in Australia.
4 United Kingdom: 46.9 per 1000
In the UK, things are not looking great for teen pregnancy. It has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world due to lack of comprehensive sexual education, stigma around women's healthcare, and religious issues.
Abstinence-only sexual education is not taught as frequently as in the US, and British teens have one of the highest rates of birth control in the world. Thus, the high rate of teen pregnancy is obviously not down to resources: Just because teens have access to it, that doesn't mean they know how to use it, when to use and how to prevent pregnancy in all cases. A cultural adjustment towards more open dialogue about sexuality with teens may be the key to resolving this issue.
3 Bulgaria: 83.3 per 1000
In many ways, Bulgaria is still developing, yet its rates are actually lower than other fully-developed countries. In Bulgaria, terminations are easy to obtain; however, areas of sex education and resources leave much to be desired.
In 2010, the abortion rate in Bulgaria for women between 15 and 44 stood at over 14/1000. Obviously, teenagers are not yet fully knowledgeable about how to prevent pregnancy, how pregnancy occurs and how it affects lives. They also are not obtaining contraception at the level they should.
2 United States: 83.6 per 1000
The United States is seen as an advanced country in many ways, yet it falls behind in many measures of prosperity and well-being. For instance, it has one of the worst education systems in the developed world, a fact which extends to sex education.
Due to lack of funding as well as conservative religious views, teens in America are not receiving adequate sexual education. This leads to archaic views on birth control and abortion.
Abstinence-only teaching is not only prominent, but becoming more widespread, leading many other countries to despair that Americans may be regressing. Progress can be hindered, in this case, when it conflicts with conservative notions. The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy of any fully developed country.
1 Russia: 101.7 per 1000
Russia is currently believed to be transitioning from a developing to developed country, but many view its sub-par living conditions to be those of a definitively developing country. Teen pregnancy rates certainly indicate this. The nation does not adequately provide services to sexually active teens, and there are not enough contraceptive methods available, nor valuable information or sexual education.
Russia has lower birth rates, but higher pregnancy rates, than the US.
More needs to be done in order to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy in Russia, or its advancement to a fully developed country with a high standard of living will be significantly hindered. The presence or absence of sex education is usually indicative of the level of other forms of education. As such, the teen pregnancy rate in Russia is one of the more damning statistics for the country's future.
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