Every day, 20,000 girls below age 18 give birth in developing countries. Births among girls are also common in developed countries but on a much smaller scale. A pregnancy can have immediate consequences for a girl’s health, education and income-earning potential. And it often alters the course of her entire life. The tragedy is that for most adolescents, particularly those below the age of 18, pregnancies are not the result of a deliberate choice. To the contrary, pregnancies are generally the result of an absence of choices and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control. Early pregnancies reflect powerlessness, poverty and pressures—from partners, peers, families and communities. And in too many instances, they are the result of sexual violence or coercion. Girls who have little autonomy—particularly those in forced marriages—
have little say about whether or when they become pregnant.