A 10-year-old girl gave birth last week in a Spanish hospital, as TIME’s NewsFeed posted earlier today. The new mother’s young age may be shocking, but she isn’t the youngest mother on record by far.
Earlier this year, a 9-year-old schoolgirl in northeast China gave birth to a healthy baby boy. In 2008, another 10-year-old girl in Idaho, who got pregnant at age 9, carried a baby to term. And back in 1939, as TIME reported, Lina Medina of Peru, became pregnant at the age of 5 years, 8 months, and became a mother by age 6 years, 5 months.
Spanish newspapers are reporting that according to the mother of the young girl who gave birth last week, a first pregnancy at age 10 is not uncommon in their native country of Romania. Although we could not find find exact figures for births to children in that country or elsewhere, it is of course well known that teen motherhood is not unusual: the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 10% of girls in low- and middle-income countries become mothers by the age of 16, and 11% of all births worldwide are to mothers age 10 to 19. (More on Time.com: Moms: Guilty of Driving Their Daughters to Early Puberty?)
Teenage mothers account for 23% of the global burden of disease related to childbirth, according to WHO. There are myriad health consequences to both mother and child, when a young girl becomes pregnant before her own body has fully developed. Mothers under age 16 are four times more likely to die during childbirth and are at greater risk for related conditions including anemia, postpartum hemorrhage, depression and other mental disorders. In addition, 65% of women who develop obstetric fistula — in which a hole occurs in the perineum or between the vagina and bladder due to difficulties during labor — do so during adolescence.
Infants born to mothers under 20 may also be at increased risk of death, compared with babies born to women over 20; the younger the teen mother, the more likely infant death becomes. Babies who survive tend to be premature, have low birth weight and are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems during labor, which increases health risks later on. (More on Time.com: Another Cause of Early Puberty in Girls: Absent Dads)
In the case of the young Romanian mother, both mom and baby are reported to be healthy and safe. However, the Associated Press reports that Spanish authorities are uncertain about how to handle custody of the baby. It is not immediately clear whether either new parent (the father is also reported to be underage) — or their parents — will get custody.