Teenage pregnancy is like an epidemic. It continues to be an important social issue. Report of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shows 49 percent of adolescent girls living only in six countries: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United States with India (20 percent) and China (16 percent) together made more than one-third of the global total in the year 2010.
What is a Teenage Pregnancy?
Teenage pregnancy is also known as “adolescent pregnancy”. When a female under the age of 20 is pregnant, it falls under adolescent pregnancy according to the World Health Organization.
Teenage pregnancies occur with increasing rates across regions and countries and age groups. The UNFPA report was released in which it was shown that in the period between 2000 and 2013 there were 11,875,182 pregnancies. With the greatest numbers of women aged between 20 and 24 who gave birth before their age was 18, India topped the chart of 10 countries.
What are the Causes of a teenage pregnancy?
There can be many causes leading to the situation of early pregnancy some of them are as follows:
- Unprotected sex, lack of sex education.
- Influence of drug or alcohol for adolescent sexual behavior.
- Stress and depression can also lead to teenage pregnancy.
- Lack of guidance from elders.
- The pressure of partners to indulge in sexual activity.
- An unhealthy environment of home can also play an important role.
- Cultural impact
- Sexual or domestic violence
- Abused relationships
- Financial hardships
- Early puberty
- No contraception
Effects of teenage pregnancy-
There can be many adverse effects of teenage pregnancy not only on the girl, on the child but to the whole society in wide approach. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), pregnancy cause irreparable consequences to the girls who are less than 19 in age.
There can be a risk on the life of the pregnant girl as well as the child in the womb. The effects of teenage pregnancy are not only physical but social, economical and psychological as well. The adverse impact is more on the girl of early age than a girl of mature age.
Though this problem of teenage pregnancy exists worldwide but its existence is more in developing counties. The reason behind that is lack of knowledge, poverty and less education and sometimes social culture also play a role in increasing rate of teenage pregnancy across the globe.
There are following effects of adolescent pregnancy/teenage pregnancy:
I. Medical Effect-
- There are many medical effects on the health of a teen that is pregnant. The researches in this field shows that in most of the cases pregnant teens get less prenatal care as they get it in the third trimester more often.
- As a result, there is always a great risk of pre mature birth and delivery complications.
- Low birth rate is very common in such phenomena.
- Complications during childbirth lead to deaths which are twice than those who give birth in their 20s.
- Complications of child birth create a lot of health issues in the teenage girl because of which girls carry poor health throughout their life.
II. Health effects on mother and child-
- Teenage mothers face a lot of health issues due to the deficiency of nutrition.
- It is seen that many diseases like anemia, high blood pressure, lack of immunity, stress and depression is more common in teenage mother than those who give birth in their 20s.
- Due to the complication in delivery teens may face a situation where if a cesarean option for delivery is not available on time it can cause an obstetric fistula which means a tear in the birth canal that creates leakage of urine. Many poor women live in this situation.
- Premature birth is one of the adverse effects of teenage pregnancy.
- Child born in such pregnancy will be at higher risk of complications of low weight, accidental trauma and poisoning, minor acute infections, lack of immunization or vaccinations and developmental delays.
- Many situations like behavioral issues, language issues, psychological issues, socio-emotional delays may occur in child born in such pregnancies.
III. Social effects on mother and child-
- Teenage pregnancy or adolescent pregnancy is also prevalent in developed countries but this cause stigma.
- In most of the cases of teenage pregnancy, mother drops out of school and lacks education which subsequently leads her on to facing difficulties to get on a good job.
- Besides this, Studies also show that most of the couples who get married for the sake of the child end up divorcing each other after a few years.
- A teenage pregnancy limits the mother’s social interactions due to her involvement with the child.
- Newborn babies are pre-mature and under-weight in such pregnancies hence the chance of dying within the first month itself get increased, which might also lead to mental retardation or other disabilities.
- A financial pressure builds upon the new parents as they are not settled in themselves and the pressure of a child comes on their family.
Position in India-
- 11 percent of the world’s total teenage pregnancies happen in India which means 16 million women between the ages of 15-19 become mothers each year.
- National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report estimates that 27 percent of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday. Though there is a law that sets an age limit for both women and men to marry according to which a girl should be at least of 18 years at the time of marriage. But because of cultural and social norms, in many states, early marriage is imposed by the society.
- In Bihar 70 percent of women in their early twenties are reportedly married by the age of 18.
- In early marriage financial considerations also play a role. In our society dowry demands and “suitability issues” increase with age. Simultaneously, where a family has more than one daughter, they find it economical to get both married at the same time to reduce the cost of multiple weddings.
- In between 1977-79 and 1981-84, there was a continuous decline in teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy tends to occur within marriages, arranged by parents, and some pregnancies occur among unmarried teenagers.
- In India, the major reason behind teenage pregnancy is early marriage. In rural regions, the rate of child marriage and early pregnancy is quite higher than the urban areas.
- India is going to be the most populous country in the world. Teenage pregnancy will be one of the important reasons for that.
- The change in the minimum age for marriage i.e. 18 years has been suggested as a means of reducing the number of adolescent pregnancies.
- From 1981 to 1984 there were 5994 deliveries in the rural health district area of Sirur, Maharashtra state, India.
- India has had about 86 cases per 1000 women in the age group of 15-19 years between the years 1995-2010 who have had teenage pregnancies according to the estimation of a report prepared by the UN Statistics Division.
- There are many factors which lead to teen pregnancy, some of them are-
- Lack of sex education is still a taboo in Indian culture which plays an important role for teenage pregnancies.
- Poverty is the reason because of which poor teens cannot even get education.
- Child marriage is a major reason where still in many parts of India girls are married off in tender age and they get pregnant in their teenage only.
- Where there are nuclear families teenage people don’t get guidance from their elders.
- Pressure of partners, where girls are dominated by the wish of their partners.
- The obscene content on internet also create the feeling to get indulge in sexual activities.
- Where there is lack of supportive parents and family a child deprived of love will look for pleasure and happiness elsewhere.
- Drugs and alcohol influence the capacity of teenagers to think about right and wrong.
- Sexual abuse is also a big reason of teen pregnancy generally in cases of rapes it happens.
- Lack of awareness regarding use of contraception increase the risk of teenage pregnancy.
Position in other countries of the world-
- Adolescent pregnancy is prevalent across the globe. In the world, 13 million children are born from women who are aged not even 20 from which more than 90% in developing countries.
- Approximately 15 million girls under the age of 20 in the world have a child each year according to the Encyclopedia of Women’s Health, which was published in the year 2004.
- There were estimates that 20–60% of these pregnancies in developing countries are mistimed or unwanted.
- Here women generally marry at an early age. In this continent of Africa, the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world is seen.
- In some Asian countries teenage pregnancy rates are high. In countries like Malaysia and Indonesia rates have been decreased in last few years. It is worth to mention that the countries like South Korea and Singapore are the lowest teenage pregnancy rate countries of the world.
- Data shows that in 2015, the birth rate among teenage women in Australia was 11.9 births per 1,000 women but this rate has fallen from 55.5 births per 1,000 women in 1971, due to access to effective birth control.
- In Bulgaria and Romania the teenage birth rate is very high, but in western European countries have vice versa reason behind this is good sex education and use of contraceptives.
- In Western Europe UK has had one of the highest teenage pregnancy and abortion rates. In England and Wales the teen pregnancy rate was 23.3 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17.
- S. was the highest teenage pregnancy rate country in the developed world in 2001, and the teenage abortion rate was also high. The latest data available shows that Mississippi, New Mexico and Arkansas are the states with the highest teenage birthrate. On the other hand, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont are the states with the lowest teenage birthrate.
- There was steady decline for both younger (15–17) and older (18–19) teens in the period between 1992 and 2002 but now teenage pregnancy is increasing since 2013.
How can we fight this out? Measures for prevention-
Prevention can be done of adolescent pregnancy by taking on many of the following measures-
- Education is a must to update people. Likewise, sex education should be a must for all the young children and they should also be explained the ill effects of pregnancy in the early age on their mental and physical health and well being.
- Stopping Gender Biases- Not only the teenage girls, but the young boys should also be educated on the mental and social problems they too will have to be facing in the advent of making a girl pregnant and they always can’t get away with it being a male. Especially on law intervening in the situation and parents of the girl taking strict action against it, the teenage male can limit his entire future to just being a father at the age in which he had to explore a lot more in life.
- Guidance by elders should be the practice that can happen by being friends to their children, especially teens and educating them on every aspect of life than just being mere strict and controlling parents in the name of protecting their teenagers.
- Easy availability of contraceptives should be made.
- Public policies should be framed by the government.
- General awareness programs should be made aware to the public at large.
- Strict laws against sexual abuse cases should be made.
- Obscene content available on the internet, books etc should also be checked.
In order to deal with this social problem, everyone should have to play their own role. Elders are required to guide their younger about the causes and effects of adolescent pregnancy. Sex education should be provided at every level. The custom of child marriage should be completely abolished, only then it is possible to save the society from the far-reaching effects of this problem.