In 2022, Ecuador faced a troubling reality with 53,847 cases of pregnancy among girls and adolescents. Among these pregnancies, 3,386 occurred in girls aged 10 to 14, while the remaining 50,461 were identified in adolescents aged 15 to 19.
Inside the Isidro Ayora Maternity Hospital in Quito, Maria sits in the External Consultation room, playing with her eight-month-old daughter. Reflecting on her experience, she recalls getting pregnant at the young age of 17, without any prior planning.
Maria’s journey into motherhood was filled with difficulties. She endured intense physical pain, and she faced judgment from others due to her young age. She admits that being a mother, especially at her age, is not an easy task. Lacking knowledge on child-rearing, Maria relied heavily on her mother and mother-in-law for support in the initial months, fearing she might unintentionally harm her child.
Maria’s story is just one among the staggering 53,847 pregnancies in girls and adolescents registered by the Ministry of Health in 2022, highlighting the urgent need for attention.
The Minister of Health, Jose Ruales, describes pregnancies in girls and adolescents as a grave issue, as it forces them to set aside age-appropriate activities to assume the responsibilities of motherhood.
Additionally, it is crucial to remember that the Comprehensive Criminal Code (COIP) in Ecuador deems any sexual relationship with a girl under 14 years of age as rape, carrying penalties that can result in up to 22 years of imprisonment.
One-quarter of pregnancies terminated
Disturbingly, along with the high number of pregnancies, there is another distressing statistic to consider—pregnancies terminated due to obstetric complications. Out of the 53,847 registered pregnancies, 13,926 faced such complications, preventing the successful birth of the children. Hemorrhages, miscarriages, infections, and preeclampsia were among the most common complications reported by the Ministry of Health.
To address these pressing issues, the Ministry of Health released the ‘Regulations for Pregnancy Care’ and the ‘Regulations for the Prevention and Detection of Violence in Girls and Adolescents.’ These guidelines aim to mitigate risks during pregnancy and provide health professionals with measures to prevent and identify cases of physical, psychological, and sexual violence against girls and adolescents.
In terms of birth rates, the Ministry of Health reported two births per 1,000 girls aged 10 to 14 and an alarming rate of 54.6 births per 1,000 adolescents aged 15 to 19.
To combat this concerning trend, the Ten-Year Health Plan 2022-2031 has set a target of reducing births to 0.52 per 1,000 girls aged 10 to 14 and 16.9 births per 1,000 adolescents aged 15 to 19. This ambitious plan seeks to prioritize the well-being and future opportunities of girls and adolescents, ensuring they are not burdened with early pregnancies that can hinder their personal and educational development.
Addressing the issue of pregnancy in girls and adolescents requires a comprehensive approach, involving education, access to reproductive healthcare, and efforts to combat violence and early sexual relationships. By promoting awareness and implementing effective strategies, Ecuador can strive to protect the rights and well-being of its young population, enabling them to fulfill their potential and contribute to the nation’s progress.