Address teenage pregnancy problem now
Posted Thursday, October 17 2013 at 01:00
Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate Safe Motherhood Day under the theme “Teenage pregnancy – an obstacle to Safe Motherhood. Let us stop it now”. This theme is cognisant of the fact that teenage pregnancy is a big health concern in the country as it significantly contributes to maternal mortality.
Uganda is among the top six countries with the highest prevalence of early child bearing in the world. The 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) indicates that 26.4 per cent of girls aged between 15 and 19 had begun bearing children.
This exposes them to a higher risk of experiencing serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth since their bodies are not mature.
Scientific findings indicate that adolescents between the age of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or child birth while those under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die.
The high teenage pregnancy levels make it hard for Uganda to achieve the Millennium Development Goal five whose target is to reduce maternal deaths to 131 by 2015. Uganda still has an unacceptably high maternal mortality ratio of 438 mothers dying out of 100,000 live births.
This day, therefore, provides another opportunity to reflect on the status of maternal health in the country and to design ways of controlling maternal death. The ideal description of the notion Safe Motherhood is to ensure safe pregnancy and delivery thus preventing mothers from pregnancy related complications of childbirth.
Sexual exploitation among young girls is largely responsible for the increase in teenage pregnancies. A recent study by Plan Uganda ranked sexual harassment as one of the major factors causing high school dropout rates among girls and subsequent teenage pregnancies.
In another study, 20 per cent of women in one rural area of Uganda reported that adolescents had been threatened or forced into having their first sexual experience.
In Uganda, adolescents from poor households are more likely to become pregnant as compared to those from well-to-do families. Because of this trend, experts have distinctly linked poverty with teenage pregnancies.
Overall, teenage pregnancy and early motherhood can severely cause long term and adverse impact on young girls’ lives. Unfortunately, millions of adolescents who get pregnant have no idea of what to do during pregnancy or after delivery.
The campaign to stop teenage pregnancy as a way of reducing maternal death in Uganda cannot be left to adolescents only. It’s everybody’s responsibility; the government, parents, communities, civil society organisations, religious and cultural institutions, the list is endless.
Girls should be supported to acquire quality education to attain a stable economic position.
That said, we should all collectively invigorate the effort to promote safe motherhood by stopping the unacceptably high teenage pregnancy rates in the country.