- An estimated 11.8 million incidents of teenage pregnancies occurred in India alone in 2017.
- According to the National Family Health Survey 4 (HFHS 4), 7.9 percent of Indian women between the age group of 15-19 years were pregnant while the survey was being done.
- The prevalence of teenage pregnancy is 9.2 percent while it is 5 percent in the urban areas.
- Approximately 1 million adolescents in the United States become pregnant every year.
- 13 percent of teenage pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, unintended, and occur outside the marriage.
- According to the WHO, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15–19-year-old girls globally.
The global rise in the cases of teenage pregnancies is appalling and the repercussions are often scary. This article is intended to throw light on teenage pregnancy and spread necessary awareness on how we as individuals and society at large can prevent it. Before diving into how teenage pregnancies can be prevented and what needs to be done to curb it, let’s understand what it is, why there’s an upward spike in the trend, and what needs to be done to curb it.
What is teenage pregnancy?
A pregnancy that takes place in women under the age of 20 years is known as teenage pregnancy. The term usually refers to the age group of 15-19 but may also include girls who are as young as 10 years. In many countries, including India, teenage pregnancy is also known as adolescent pregnancy or teen pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy is a global problem, but the occurrence is significantly higher in poorer countries, and in marginalized societies.
What contributes to teenage pregnancy?
Evaluating the global phenomenon, it can be rightly concluded that when young girls are denied the right to speak, discuss, learn and make decisions about sexual health and reproductive wellbeing, it can lead to teenage pregnancies.
In countries like India, sex as an act and a topic of discussion are considered taboo. Lack of awareness about their reproductive health and how to indulge in sexual activities is a major contributor to pregnancies among teenagers.
According to data by UNICEF, one in every four girls in India is forced to marry before they turn 18 years. India is the home to 1 in every 3 child brides in the world. The UNICEF data also states that of the country’s 223 million child brides, 102 million were married before turning 15. Community and family pressure to get married is yet another major contributor to teenage pregnancies in India. Bihar has the highest rates of child marriage in India.
Lack of access to contraception and constant pressure on young girls, especially those living in rural India, to prove their fertility contributes to almost 90 percent of the total cases of teenage pregnancies.
Another significant factor of teenage pregnancy is education. Different study reports surfacing on the internet indicate that girls with no or very little education are five times more likely to become pregnant during their teenage compared to girls with proper and higher education.
How to prevent teenage pregnancies?
- The first and safest way to avoid pregnancy during teenage is to avoid indulging in sex. Teenage is a vulnerable phase; young boys and girls learn are willing to explore every opportunity to explore sexual activities. If at all a teenager decides to get sexually involved with their partners, both should agree to use contraception.
- Support groups and communities conduct family planning and sex education programs to make teenagers aware of the repercussions of teenage pregnancy. Developing training programs for safe and effective birth control measures can go a long way in preventing teenage pregnancies.
- In most parts of India, the purpose of sex is seen as nothing but an act of reproduction. Adolescents should be taught by their guardians or in their schools that physical intimacy goes much beyond sex. They should be given a realistic viewpoint about physical intimacy, how it is a way to express love and support towards their partners, and not live within a cocoon of unrealistic ideas when it comes to sex.
- Teenagers should be taught about Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) as a first-line choice of birth control for teens. Every community group, primary healthcare center should offer a broad range of birth control options to teens.
- There’s no denying the fact that every learning begins at home. Parents and guardians rather than being strict with their children should get involved in healthy discussions around sex and reproductive wellbeing. Parents should not discard the importance of sex education and should encourage their children to use effective birth control measures to prevent pregnancy.
- Teenagers should be provided training in LARC insertion and removal, have supplies of LARC available, and explore different funding and pricing options for the same. Teens should know how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and that condoms should be used without fail every time you have sex.
- If you use birth control pills, condoms, or other forms of contraception, you should know how to use them right and follow instructions from your gynecologists or your sex counselor.
How can parents help children to prevent teenage pregnancy?
Following are some of the easy and relatable ways, recognized by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:
1. Parents should stop behaving like ‘parents’ round the clock. Parents at times should be easy on setting values and ethics towards and for their children. It is parents from whom children learn what to expect from a relationship and how to set boundaries. Parents should not mandate it for children that they should abstain from sex. Rather, they should ask what their thoughts are about sex and discuss what they know about contraceptives.
2. Keep an eye on your children’s behavior and activities. Know what they are reading, what they are watching, and who they are meeting. When parents are not around, adults need to set ways to supervise them. There is a fair chance that your children might blurt out for you being snoopy, but as parents, you need to make them believe that what you are doing is because you care for them.
3. Discourage early dating. Once you sense that your child is behaving a little inclined than others towards a specific person, you need to let them know that dating at an early age could be troublesome. Most teenagers do not really understand what they are looking for in the partner they are with. Let them know ahead of time that they might fall for someone easily at that age, but knowing a person for good and bad comes with age and maturity.
Why is it important to prevent teenage pregnancy?
study published by Pediatrics found that girls ranging from 15 to 19 experienced postpartum depression at a rate that was twice as high as women aged 25 and older.
Most mothers during their teenage face several mental complications including depression, ‘baby blues’ – a condition where the mother experiences severe anxiety, mood swings, sadness, trouble eating, and difficulty sleeping.
According to the National Institutes of Health, teenage pregnancy is associated with a significantly higher rate of anemia, preeclampsia, premature delivery, and delivering a baby with low birth weight.
The negativity of teenage pregnancy can wreak havoc in an individual’s personal as well as social life. Most teenage pregnancies are associated with unsafe abortion too. Rather than landing on doing a dreadful mistake and regretting it, it is important to teach the younger generations what is right and what is wrong.