This study measured the levels and characteristics of early teenage pregnancy (that is, pregnancy before age 17) among women age 17-24 in Ethiopia, based on analysis of the Ethiopia Demographic and Health Surveys (EDHS) conducted in 2000 and 2005. The 2005 EDHS showed that, despite a minimum legal marriage of 18 years in Ethiopia, early marriage remains
common, with a median age at first marriage among women age 25-49 of 16.1 years. Almost all pregnancies in Ethiopia occur within marriage, and the median age at first birth is about 17 years. Levels of contraceptive use are low, at 15% among married women of reproductive age.
The study measured the percentage of early teenage pregnancy by background
characteristics of women age 17-24 in 2000 and 2005. The association of
different background characteristics with early teenage pregnancy in 2000 and 2005 was ascertained using odds ratios with their confidence intervals in logistic regression analysis.
Despite efforts to curb early marriage in Ethiopia and improve adolescent reproductive health services, early teenage pregnancy among young women age 17-24 increased between 2000 and 2005. The analysis found a statistically significant increase in early teenage pregnancy between the two survey years among women who were uneducated, in minority Christianity
denominations, belonging to minority ethnic groups, and members of households in the poor and rich wealth terciles. In both surveys, the odds of early teenage pregnancy were significantly lower among women age 17-24
with more education.
To address the problem of early teenage pregnancy, stronger measures should be taken to implement of the official minimum age at first marriage, and more effort should be exerted to change the cultural tradition of early marriage, which is a root cause of the problem. In addition to increasing girls’ enrollment in secondary schools, the government of Ethiopia should scale up adult education programs for out-of-school young women, with more emphasis on reproductive health issues in the curriculum.