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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Second-time teen mothers at risk
Young mums
Teenage mothers are more at risk of pregnancy complications
Young mothers who become pregnant for a second time while they are still teenagers are at increased of birth complications.

Research shows that teenagers are not at higher risk during their first pregnancy.

Those who have a second pregnancy before the age of 20, however, are at an almost three times greater risk of premature delivery and stillbirth than other women.

Their bodies were probably never designed to cope

Professor Gordon Smith
Researchers at Glasgow University examined complication rates among over 110,000 non-smoking women, aged between 15 and 29 years, who gave birth for the first or second time between 1992 and 1998.

They found that non-smoking women aged 15-19 having a first birth were at no greater risk than women aged 20-29.

However, the women in the younger age group were at a considerably higher risk if they were having their second child.

Previous studies have suggested that teenagers becoming pregnant for the first time are at a greater risk.

But the researchers say these studies failed to take into account factors such as whether the mother smoked.

Modern phenomenon

Lead researcher Professor Gordon Smith, an expert in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Cambridge, told BBC News Online that the ability of a woman to become pregnant twice while still a teenager was probably a modern phenomenon.

Modern women are becoming fertile at a younger age thanks to improved diet.

In addition, the act of breastfeeding has a contraceptive effect which would mean that in the past a teenager would be unable to become pregnant for a second time while feeding her first child for several years.

However, many teenage mothers no longer breastfeed at all.

Professor Smith said: "In the modern world girls can become pregnant two times before the age of 20, but their bodies were probably never designed to cope with this."

Professor Smith said that it was likely that the teenagers were unable to supply their babies with sufficient nutrients via the placenta.

He said: "Doctors should be alerted to the possibility that these women are at increased risk so that when they present ante-natally surveillance is increased."

See also:

16 Jul 01 | Health
Teenage myths about contraception
22 Mar 01 | Health
Drop in teenage pregnancies
08 Mar 01 | Health
Contraception fails UK youth
17 Aug 00 | Health
Teenage girls fail with Pill
01 Sep 99 | Teen pregnancy
Special report: Teenage pregnancy
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