Health Issue: Teenage Pregnancy
Pregnancy among teens is a concern worldwide which has reduced to some extent compared to 2000 but still remains a life-threatening issue. The latest sources, Tang (2019) says that there was a slight decrease in number of teenage pregnant mothers in 2016 (3,938 cases) and 2017 (3,694 cases) from 2013 (4,127 cases) but in 2018 again rose a bit to 3,694 cases. Among these 3,694 cases in 59.4% were in the age group of 18-19 year and 38% in 15-17 years and 2.5% in 10-14 years.
Why a Concern
Teenage is the age group known for curiosities and exploration, sexual health is something that fascinates them the most and they get involved into unhealthy practices with or without consent resulting into early pregnancy, emotional imbalance, abortions at times and can be threat to the life of the teenage mother and the child. A healthy age for pregnancy is 20 years and above.
Who It Impacts
- It impacts majorly the teenager who is pregnant as she has to deal with a lot of mental, physical, emotional changes. The physiological changes in her body from the initial month becomes a worry and a lot more if there is any further complication involved. If the father of the child is not supportive or disowns it, she further goes through a lot of emotional trauma. The concerns about the speaking about it to the family and supporting the child along with the continuing education is also an obstacle. Apart from physical there are mental health aspects of post-partum depression or anxiety which can affect the sound status of the mother.
- It impacts the child that the teenager bears because the child can have lots of complications at birth and if survived there are less chances for the child to have a holistic life due to factors like single parent or foster homes or broken families or adoption centers.
- The father of the child and both the families involved get affected as they have to support the teenage mother to deal with all these complexities and a continuing concern about the mother’s health and her future.
- It further impacts the hospital staff and concerned health care providers if there are complications involved in the pregnancy.
- It even impacts the society and the nation as baby dumping can be a probable response to such unwanted pregnancy which affects the normal growth direction of the child.
What Is the Impact
The major reasons of Maternal Mortality are teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortions and complications during pregnancy. The rate of complications like post-partum hemorrhage, eclampsia, infection and obstructed labor during pregnancy is high with young aged mothers. The major reason of Neonatal Mortality is preterm birth (before 37 weeks) which is probable with teenage pregnancy. Further factors leading to neonatal death like low birth weight (less than 2.5kg), sepsis (low immunity), birth asphyxia (lungs develop completely after 34 weeks) and hypoglycemia (less feeding leads to low sugar levels) are all related to preterm labor. The health of both the mother and the baby throughout the whole pregnancy are at stake. These increased rates of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity will affect the health of the country. Reason for majority of the school dropouts is teenage pregnancy, it also impacts education system of the nation leading to unskilled professionals.
- Hospitals (Health)- Dealing maternal and newborn complications that are high with teen mothers. These complications can lead to maternal or neonatal mortality and morbidity endangering the life of the mother and the child.
- Schools & Colleges (Education)- Responsibilities of pregnancy and parenthood prevent the teenagers from continuing education, resulting in drop-outs which also deters them to be part of good professional colleges and courses.
- Families (Society)- The child would be with one parent or at foster homes leading to an unhappy childhood. Ignored children with unpleasant childhood or broken families are prone to be victimized and later indulge with drugs and crime.
- Psychiatric Health Centers/ De-addiction Centers (Mental Health)- Negative influence and unacceptance from the society or family and the dilemma of bearing a child with emotional changes can lead to feelings of worthlessness, depression or anxiety. It can even lead to addictive habits and unhealthy relationships in desperation need of worth, love or support.
Aplying System Thinking Lens to the Issue of Teenage Pregnancy
- Sexual health discussions originating at home: Parents should make sure that children have someone in the family who they are close to and can approach with any concern without hesitations, it can be either of the parents or someone elder and trustworthy. Discussions on sexual differences in a male and female body and the need to respect each other should begin at home. Committing a mistake and not having anyone to support can lead to more trouble in pregnancy cases, therefore such conversation should be promoted at home.
- Sex education at school: Schools should make sure that they teach students about the anatomical difference between man and women and also teach them about contraceptive measures. Introducing contraceptives and its importance in school can promote sensitization and awareness among students about the importance of safe sex practice. Libraries should have information about these topics too.
- Adequate counsellor for students in schools and colleges: This is an important as there can be children who are not comfortable discussing these issues at home.
- Health education centres: This provision can even be in hospitals or in schools and colleges where children can speak to health care professionals about their concerns and even receive health care checkups (pregnancy test) or availability of free contraceptives.
- Distinct Services for teenagers in hospitals: Services should be provided in hospital separately to deal with the teenage issue. Reliable health care providers could be appointed and can be accessed by every young girl/boy either alone or with anyone they want without having to describe the reason of visit to anyone apart from the provider they meet. The main idea is that both the parties do not know each other, therefore can be comfortable and would feel unjudged.
- Government to have favourable policy on availability of contraceptives: Boxes with free contraceptives should be installed in schools, colleges or other accessible places for youths so that they do not have to go through the embarrassment of buying it from shops.
Teenage pregnancy is an issue that can be life threatening for the young mother as well as the growing child, therefore there should be measures to prevent such circumstances. It is possible if this issue is assessed with the system thinking lens of the causes that leads to such problems. The tip of the iceberg visible is the increase of teenage pregnancy but the invisible issues can be home (broken families, unhappy or ignored kids who end up being in unhealthy relationships), school (unawareness, peer pressure or fear of being left out) or hospital level. So the approach should be on all the factors that lead to this teenage pregnancy.
- Tang, A. (2019, October14). Teen pregnancies on the decline: Star Online. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/10/14/teen-pregnancies-on-the-decline
- World Health Organization. (2019, September 19). Maternal mortality. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality
- Teen Pregnancy – I’m Pregnant (OK,Inc). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB7HErZxNeM
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- A Message to Health Care Professionals: Teen Pregnancy (CDC). (2011). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vjdd41VbNvk
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- Insight: Mexico Leads in Teenage Pregnancy Rates (CGTN America). (2014). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T336U3xp-CU
- Teens: Addiction and Pregnancy | The Steve Wilkos Show (The Steve Wilkows Show). (2013). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytFyslyLaak
- New Guidelines Urge Doctors to Screen for Depression In Teens | NBC Nightly News (NBC News). (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-3fv4V1rtE