An 11-year-old girl has become the youngest mother to give birth in the United Kingdom.
The child was only 10-years-old when she first received the news, and was pregnant for more than 30 weeks before successfully giving birth in early June 2021. The infant is in good health and temporarily in the care of primary health professionals.
“This is the youngest mother I have heard of,” doctor Carol Cooper said according to the New York Post.
Cooper suspects there might be a link between obesity and the growing number of reported teenage births. Although the average age a girl begins puberty is 11, the process can happen anytime between 8 and 14.
“Weight affects many hormones,” she said. “Because children are heavier, puberty is happening earlier these days.”
However, the doctor does not recommend deliberately pursing teenage pregnancy because it can cause a number of health challenges.
“There is a higher risk of a low-birthweight baby, pre-eclampsia, premature labour and many infections,” she said according to the Sun newspaper.
The school girl, who is too young to identify, caught many of her family members off guard when she was found to be pregnant.
“Around one in every 2,500 births happens to someone who does not know she is pregnant [or has hidden it,]” Cooper said according to the paper.
The Department of Health and Social Care and police are investigating the circumstances in which the girl became pregnant.
This is not the first time a record-breaking adolescent pregnancy was reported. The previous record-holder was Tressa Middleton, who was only 12-years-old when she gave birth back in 2006.
The United Kingdom has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion compared to Western Europe.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the average teen pregnancy rate in England and Wales was 23.3 for every 1,000 women aged between 15 and 17. There were a total of 5,740 pregnancies under the age of 18 in the three months to June 2014, compared to 6,279 for the same period in 2013.
In 1999, the then left-leaning Labour Party government launched a 10 year Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England to halve the conception rate for under-18s.
The strategy involved sex and relationships education, access to effective contraceptives, coordinated support for young parents, and a communications campaign targeting both youth and parents.
This steadily decreased the rate of under-18 conceptions, with the 2014 under-18 conception rate 51 percent lower than the 1998 baseline. There were also considerably fewer cases in high-poverty demographics.
United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA’s) 2013 report “Adolescent Pregnancy: a Review of the Evidence” only supports procreating in adulthood due to the “irreparable consequences” of adolescent pregnancy.
“It violates the rights of girls, with life-threatening consequences in terms of sexual and reproductive health, and poses high development costs for communities–particularly in perpetuating the cycle of poverty,” UNPFA said in the report.
Teenage pregnancies are also linked to lower educational attainment and poverty. In wealthier countries, it frequently occurs outside of marriage.
Adolescents, who are more exposed to sexuality in the media, are also more likely to participate in sexual activities. Teens exposed to the “most sexual content on TV are twice as likely” to become pregnant before reaching the age of 20, according to Time Magazine.