Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Hazards of Teenage Pregnancy

It is no longer a diplomatic statement that young people in the last decade, especially within the age group of 10-18 years, are living beyond the yard sticks of adventures compared to the youths of the 60s'. A blend of unpredictable, news breaking activities and issues of topmost concern has risen in the last few years. One of the most striking facts is the rising number of teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy is a result of sexual intercourse between young girls and boys who are in their growing years, exploring the changes happening in their bodies by having unsafe sex with each other. Health organizations across the world are still in the frontlines of reducing maternal deaths due to complications and diseases, with an ever rising more to do with the increasing number of teenage pregnancy.

Bearing a child while still a child themselves, these young mothers are prone to birth injuries and maternal death. It also affects their emotional well being: Teenage mothers are 3 times more likely to suffer from post-natal depression and experience poor mental health for up to 3 years after the birth. Children born to teenage mothers have 60% higher rates of infant mortality and are at increased risk of low birth-weight which impacts on the child's long-term health. Further more, they are at increased risk to be brought up in poverty.

“These adolescent actions have matured consequence”, states Chineye Nwokolo (18 years), a member of Youth Rescue Club, a teenage advocacy group based at Association for Family and Reproductive Health (ARFH) Ibadan. Chineye narrated about the terrain of her adolescence, compared to the experience with a pregnant girlfriend of hers:“About three years ago, I lost a friend to the plight of teenage pregnancy. She dropped out from being my classmate in school and could hardly be regarded to enjoy any teenage experience, like I did. Her name is also Chineye. I saw my friend draw back from what could have been a future for her into the waters of idleness, pain, outright isolation and oblivion. Against my convictions, Chineye's family believed she had brought home a gift into the family. Her mother was a sales woman in the market and her dad just lost his job; tentatively speaking they are a well-to-do family. Chineye had four sisters, for their middle age mother who was closing in to the end of child bearing years this was an opportunity to have a son through her daughter. Her parents did not really care who was responsible but looked forward to the joy of having a male child in the family at all cost, which makes me wonder if she was not pushed out by her parents in the first place to get pregnant! With her parents support, my friend exploited the opportunity to be pampered in her new state. She gave birth and soon enough was back in the crooks and corners were she got pregnant in the first place; I tried reaching out to her to understand the social setback it has cost her but she excusably pointed out to other girls around us who were also getting pregnant. Pregnancy was now a fashionable trend in our community, and week in and out somebody was naming a child, become victim of maternal death, or was commercially parading their pregnancy status. Chineye's child, the adorable little girl, died 4 weeks after delivery. Apparently the family had stopped celebrating the newborn girl with respect to having expected a boy. Little attention was being paid to her medically. She was gone within a short while of her arrival.I can't put a value on the opportunity she missed out in her academics, social growth and uniqueness. My strong convictions are that Chineye represents thousands and thousands of children who are living under the hazard of teenage pregnancy due to the low level of orientation about teenage pregnancy; indiscipline by the parents and moral guidance on understanding the teenage adventures.”

Evidence from areas with the largest reductions has identified a range of factors that need to be in place to successfully reduce teenage pregnancy rates. These factors include a well-publicised contraceptive and sexual health advice service which is centred on young people. The service needs to have a strong remit to undertake health promotion work, as well as delivering reactive services. It is key to prioritize sexual and reproductive health education at schools, supported from the local authority to develop comprehensive programmes of sex and relationships education (SRE) in all schools. A strong focus on targeted interventions with young people at greatest risk of teenage pregnancy, in particular with looked-after children must be put in place to effectively curb teenage pregnancies and its many undesirable effects.

-Femi Adeolu Amele

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