Cuba: Pregnancies and Paradoxes

Cuba: Pregnancies and Paradoxes
Fecha de publicación: 
3 August 2023
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Despite the fact that we are the oldest country in Latin America, whose population is decreasing and has a very low global fertility rate that continues to plummet, in any case there are pregnancies that should be avoided.

It seems a paradox, because with so many demographic statistics against it, whose negative impacts point, among other targets, to the availability of labor resources and the renewal of human capital, any new baby should be welcome, if the analysis remains just at a calculator level.

But it happens that, by late 2022, for every thousand women between ages 15-19, there were 50.6 births: an alarming adolescent fertility rate, present in more than 90 municipalities in the country.

On top of it six provinces have figures even above this worrying indicator: Las Tunas, Granma, Guantánamo, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, and Ciego de Ávila.

After the so-called birth boom in the 1960s, just since 1978, a decline in births took place on Cuba and today the global fertility rate is 1.41 children per woman –similar to developed countries.

But "seeking more births cannot be at the cost of adolescent fertility." This is how Antonio Aja Díaz, PhD in Sciences, director of the Center for Demographic Studies of the University of Havana, stated categorically during the debates in parliamentary commissions, prior to the first regular session of the X legislature of the Cuban Parliament.

It happens that adolescent fertility and pregnancy currently stand as one of the most urgent challenges within our demographic dynamics, hence it occupies a relevant space in the analyzes of deputies, who coincided in pointing it out as a social problem and not just approached from the field of health.

Worrying potbellied indicators

-18.9% of births in 2023 correspond to women between ages  12-19

-About 18% of births in Cuba, by late 2022, were contributed by adolescent mothers

-Pregnancy increases in the earliest ages of adolescence, in late June 2022 the percentage of pregnant women between ages 12-14 was 3.8% and in late June 2023 it was 5.4%

- Deputies of the Commission for the Care of Youth, Children’ and Women's Equality Rights, verified in visits to several territories that mixed-race and black adolescents residing in rural areas are more prone to early pregnancies, detached from study and work, in low-income housing and in precarious conditions.

- They also verified a deficient availability of contraceptive methods in pharmacies and also the low perception of risk regarding unprotected sexual practices at these ages, as well as the little autonomy of girls regarding the use of these methods.

 - The majority of those born from these adolescent pregnancies are assumed by grandparents.

- Adolescent fertility decreases more slowly than the total fertility rate

-As a trend in Cuba, adolescent pregnancy is an unwanted pregnancy

- In the eastern region of the country are concentrated the highest indicators of adolescent pregnancy and fertility, and it has been historically like this. However, currently other territories show similar figures.

-The rate of voluntary termination of pregnancies is higher in women under 20 years of age than in women 20 years or older.

Reasons and solutions

The previous one shouldn’t be seen as a cold accumulation of figures and setbacks. In it are concentrated many concerns, as well as a whole project of actions and strategies.

This was ratified in the analysis of the deputies in July regarding the issue, the president of the National Assembly, Esteban Lazo, highlighted that the school, the family, the community, and the workers must play a leading role in this social phenomenon.

Undoubtedly, it needs a comprehensive approach and action among various institutions and entities, since the causes of these pregnancies are several.

The new Family Code eliminated adolescent marriage, but not the union of adolescents with older men, and there are many girls who become mothers as a result of such unions.

Such complexity was mentioned to the parliamentarians by the director of the Center for Demographic Studies of the University of Havana, Antonio Aja Díaz, and he stated: "... behind this fertility there are family problems, which are passed down between generations."

The difficulties in the access of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health services, particularly to acquire contraceptives that are practically absent in the drugstores network, as well as gender inequities, which continue to hit hard when deciding when to start the sexual life, how to protect oneself, and whether or not to continue a pregnancy, are some of the weaknesses and threats that demand new actions.

Another reality that also poses a challenge is the fact that essentially in rural areas, adolescents still consider getting pregnant as a way to improve their well-being, their standard of living, to disassociate themselves from their families of origin, believing that this is how they achieve a hypothetical independence.

"Although educational, informative and social communication actions are prioritized, the actions are insufficient due to the complexity of the changes that imply the adoption of responsible behaviors," said Arelys Santana Bello, president of the Commission of Attention to Youth, Children, and the Rights of Equality of Women.

Undoubtedly, an important step in the many efforts to reverse this situation of girls and many adolescents who have become mothers is the recent approval of the Comprehensive Care Policy for Children, Adolescents and Youth, whose purpose is precisely to contribute to the development of those age groups, to respect their rights, their social inclusion also from equity.

Said policy, also endorsed this month during the First Ordinary Session of the National Assembly in its X Legislature, is precisely one of those guidelines that seeks to articulate the factors that intervene in the care and protection of these Cubans in development.

This policy is so important, which will continue to be enriched and has abundant concrete actions and stages for its implementation, that Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Perdomo commented that with its approval, the bases will be laid for a bill to replace the current Childhood and Youth Code, in force since 1978.

While this is happening, the problem is being voiced, studied, recognized, and from now on it needs to be translated into concern and action by everyone in this crusade that Cuban society has to wage so that there are fewer adolescent wombs harboring new lives and more adolescents learning to grow, to unfold the wings of his new life.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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