Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



PLoS Currents




Because of the potential link between the ongoing Zika virus outbreak and a surge in the number of cases of congenital microcephaly, officials in Latin America have recommended that women postpone pregnancy until this association is firmly established or the outbreak subsides. However, in all these countries a large proportion of babies are still born out of unplanned pregnancies. Teenage girls are particularly at high risk, as they often lack access to preventive contraception methods, or the knowledge to use them appropriately. To gauge the magnitude of the barriers preventing the implementation of such a recommendation in Brazil, the country so far most affected by the Zika epidemic, we evaluated pregnancy rates in teenage girls, and their spatial heterogeneity in the country, in recent years (2012-2014). Nearly 20% of children born in Brazil today (~560,000 live births) are by teenage mothers. Birth incidence is far higher in the tropical and poorer northern states. However, in absolute terms most births occur in the populous southeastern states, matching to a large extent the geographic distribution of dengue (an indicator of suitable climatic and sociodemographic conditions for the circulation of Aedes mosquitoes). These findings indicate that recommendation to delay pregnancy will leave over half a million pregnant adolescents in Brazil vulnerable to infection every year if not accompanied by effective education and real access to prevention.


Reproduced with permission of PLoS Currents

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Open Access