Sexual initiation and childbearing among adolescent girls in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Reprod Health Matters. 2001 May;9(17):44-52. doi: 10.1016/s0968-8080(01)90007-2.


A girl's first sexual intercourse is often unplanned and may put her at risk of STDs and HIV infection as well as unwanted pregnancy. The high prevalence of HIV among 15-24 year olds in KwaZulu Natal suggests that sex is initiated at an early age. This paper is based on a 1999 survey in South Africa which identified age of sexual debut and childbearing among adolescent girls in KwaZulu Natal. Of a sample of 796 girls, almost half had already had first sexual intercourse at a mean age of 16. Of these, 44 per cent reported having communicated with their first partner about preventing pregnancy, of whom 36 per cent were able to use a contraceptive method. The majority used a male condom, the pill or injectable. Similarly, 30 per cent had used a method, almost all of them a male condom, to prevent a sexually transmitted disease at first sex. About half of the girls had ever been pregnant and a large percentage of these indicated that the pregnancy had been unwanted. If sexuality education were to begin before puberty, at age 9-10 and in primary school, then many more girls would be in a better position to make informed choices about their sexual activities by the time they begin to engage in sex or reach menarche.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraception
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • South Africa / epidemiology