Introduction. Preconception care recognizes that many adolescent girls and young women will be thrust into motherhood without the knowledge, skills or support they need. Sixty million adolescents give birth each year worldwide, even though pregnancy in adolescence has mortality rates at least twice as high as pregnancy in women aged 20-29 years. Reproductive planning and contraceptive use can prevent unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually-transmitted infections in adolescent girls and women. Smaller families also mean better nutrition and development opportunities, yet 222 million couples continue to lack access to modern contraception.
Results: Comprehensive interventions can prevent first pregnancy in adolescence by 15% and repeat adolescent pregnancy by 37%. Such interventions should address underlying social and community factors, include sexual and reproductive health services, contraceptive provision; personal development programs and emphasizes completion of education. Appropriate birth spacing (18-24 months from birth to next pregnancy compared to short intervals <6 months) can significantly lower maternal mortality, preterm births, stillbirths, low birth weight and early neonatal deaths.
Method. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence was conducted to ascertain the possible impact of preconception care for adolescents, women and couples of reproductive age on MNCH outcomes. A comprehensive strategy was used to search electronic reference libraries, and both observational and clinical controlled trials were included. Cross-referencing and a separate search strategy for each preconception risk and intervention ensured wider study capture.
Conclusion: Improving adolescent health and preventing adolescent pregnancy; and promotion of birth spacing through increasing correct and consistent use of effective contraception are fundamental to preconception care. Promoting reproductive planning on a wider scale is closely interlinked with the reliable provision of effective contraception, however, innovative strategies will need to be devised, or existing strategies such as community-based health workers and peer educators may be expanded, to encourage girls and women to plan their families.
- birth spacing
- pregnancy intervals
- teen pregnancy