Background: Adolescent pregnancy increases risk of short- and long-term adverse social and health outcomes for the adolescent mother and child. Zambia has high prevalence rates of adolescent pregnancy. However, the risk factors are varied and in need of further review and research. The study accordingly reviewed the prevalence and factors associated with adolescent pregnancy in Zambia.
Methods: This systematic review was conducted following the 2020 Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. The review included original peer-reviewed research articles published from 2000 onwards in English, retrieved from Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, and African Journals Online databases. Thematic synthesis was used in the analysis of the data extracted from the included studies.
Results: Six research studies carried out in Zambia (two quantitative, two qualitative, and two mixed methods) were reviewed and included. Prevalence of adolescent pregnancy in Zambia ranged from 29 to 48%. Additionally, it was found that 29.1% of the country’s adolescents, nationally, had given birth as of 2018. Factors at an individual’s level such as early or child marriage, exposure to media, knowledge about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and contraception, contraceptive use, as well as risky sexual behaviours were found to be significantly associated with adolescent pregnancy. Peer pressure, educational attainment, household wealth, and the power dynamics of the household head were identified as the major socio-economic factors alongside socio-cultural, gender and sexual norms amongst other environmental and contextual factors. Policy level factors identified were lack and limited access to SRH information and services by adolescents, including an enabling legal environment.
Conclusion: From the review, it was abundantly clear that a combination of individual, interpersonal, environmental, and an enabling legal/policy level factors significantly contribute to the high levels of adolescent pregnancy. There is a paucity of empirical research on the prevalence and determinants of adolescent pregnancy, which suggests an imperative need for large multi-site mixed methods studies to properly explore these and other determinants on a national scale, as well as the long-term implications of these pregnancies on adolescent mothers and babies. Multifaceted and multisectoral interventions which include improved access to education, economic empowerment, addressing gender and socio-cultural norms, should be implemented having due regard to the socio-cultural context which should ride on strong political will, failing which adolescent girls in Zambia will definitely be left behind.