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Ending child marriage can improve maternal health worldwide

A teenage girl holds her infant son.

Child marriage is not just a serious violation of girls' rights – it’s also a global health issue.

When girls are married at a young age, they’re also expected to become mothers while still children themselves. These girls are often unready, mentally and physically, for the challenges of pregnancy, potentially resulting in major health complications or even death for these young mothers and their children.

Every day, 800 women die from complications before, during or after pregnancy. In countries where child marriage is prevalent, like Uganda and Malawi, adolescent girls make up 20-30% of all maternal deaths.

However, a 2013 study showed that a 10% reduction in child marriage among girls could decrease a country’s maternal mortality rate by 70%. By putting a stop to child marriage, we can protect girls’ rights and improve maternal, newborn and child health around the world.

Married too young

Every year, 15 million girls are married before their 18th birthday.

Teenage girl cradling her newborn baby.

Girls from the poorest households are more likely to marry before they are 18. In the 4 countries where child marriage is most common – Niger, Chad, Bangladesh and Central African Republic – more than 60% of girls are married by 18.

Dangerous deliveries

According to Plan’s report A girl’s right to say no to marriage, early pregnancy is one of the most dangerous consequences of child marriage. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death in adolescent girls around the world.

Pregnancy too soon after puberty puts girls at risk of miscarriage, obstructed labour, post-partum hemorrhage, pregnancy-related hypertension and lifelong debilitating conditions, such as obstetric fistula.

Babies born to young mothers are at risk, too. They are more likely to be stillborn, premature, and underweight. According to the World Health Organization, babies born to adolescent mothers face a higher risk of dying than those born to women aged 20 to 24.

Girls sitting in a classroom.
Education is the answer

Keeping girls in school is the key to preventing child marriage and early pregnancy.

When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer, yet healthier children.

Girls who receive a quality education are more likely to develop the skills, knowledge, authority and confidence to claim their rights.

End child marriage. Send a girl to school!