TEENAGE PREGNANCY : A PROBLEM OF CONCERN
According to the Reproductive and child Health (RCH) of the Public Health Division of the Ghana Health Service, teenage or adolescence literally means to “grow up”. A term given to one phase or stage in the growth and development of human beings”. The universal accepted definition categories the ages from ten (10) to nineteen (19) as adolescents or teenagers. This period is further divided into two (2), thus younger adolescents (ten (10) to fourteen 14years) and older adolescents (fifteen 15 to nineteen (19) years). Again, this period is staged into categories namely:
Early adolescents (Ten (10) to Thirteen (13) years), Mid adolescents (Fourteen (14) to Sixteen (16) years) and Late adolescents (Seventeen (17) to Nineteen (19) years). Pre-adolescents refer to people at the age of five (5) to nine (9) years. It is at this period that the physiological changes begin. Young Adulthood refer to people at the age of twenty (20) to twenty-four (24) years. At these stage the adolescent has developed into adulthood.
Adolescence is the transition from childhood to adulthood. This stage is termed ‘formative period’ where physical, physiological and behavioural changes take place in young people. It is a period of exploration, experimentation and widening horizon and this is a time to ensure healthy all-round development for the adolescents.
Teenage pregnancy is therefore, getting pregnant at this adolescent or teenage period.
In recent years teenage pregnancy or adolescent pregnancy has be on the increase among the ages of ten (10) to fourteen (14) in Ghana which is really a problem of concern to Ghanaians. Statistics from the year 2002 show that each year, over one thousand (1000) teenagers become pregnant among which younger adolescents rate high. In 2002 one hundred and four thousand, five hundred and thirty-nine (104,539) teenagers were recorded pregnant among which younger teenagers are six hundred and fifty three (653). In 2003 one hundred and forty-eight thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine (148,799) teenagers including one thousand and seventy-nine (1079) younger adolescents were recorded and the rest reference to table:-
These statistics were presented by the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) in their annual reports of 2002 to 2007. The recorded pregnancies are a combination of wanted and unwanted pregnancies but a larger proportion are unwanted pregnancies. One (1) out of eight (8) pregnancies happens to be adolescents. In the year 2007 twelve point four percent (12.4%) thus one hundred and three thousand, one hundred and forty-three (103,143) out of a total of ninety-one point one percent (91.1%) eight hundred and thirty-eight thousand, two hundred and nineteen (838,219) of pregnancies were adolescents.
Teenage pregnancy is caused by many factors and it is having a maximum effect in our society, nation and the individuals. It can be prevented to a maximum extent. Now let us examine the causes, effects and prevention of teenage pregnancy.
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Many pockets of studies in Ghana have found many contributory factors to the problem. The factors include biological, social and economic factors.
At the stage of adolescent, physical, physiological and behavioural changes occur. It is a time when major physical changes occur and difference between boy and girls increase. The boys grow pubic hairs, moustaches, get broad shoulders, natured voices, penis enlarges etc. the girls develop breast, broad hips, small waist, pubic hairs etc. This stage is an exploration, experimentation and widening horizon. Both sexes begin to have different thought and ideas about how life should be. They begin to be analytical and inquisitive. They feel emotionally positive or negative and would want to experiment adult behaviours such as smoking, drinking, sex etc. they also become sexually active and begin to experiment adult sexual behaviours. They engage themselves in boy-girl relationships and believe is not enough just to be referred as such. Therefore the need for touches, kisses and unhealthy sexual practices emerges. Naturally girls are fond of receiving love and care from the opposite sex and with and expression of love or care towards them they will do anything including having sex to show appreciation. These biological factor of growth, need, desire and feeling lead to unprotected sex which cause teenage pregnancy. This pregnancy is unwanted and not prepared for but nature as it is has already played its part.
Secondly, adolescents experiencing family breakdown, home conflicts, peer influence etc are very much at risk of teenage pregnancy. In a family where there is always a conflict, the adolescent might find a place where he or she will get the love and attention which she lacks at home. This then gives them the opportunity to join companies which may be bad and practice what they are ignorant about. They maybe advised or pressed to take a boyfriend or girlfriend which will bring about the desire to practice unprotected sex leading to unwanted pregnancies. The context or society in which adolescents live is an influencing factor. In some societies in Ghana the adolescent is not permitted his or her due right unless he or she has reproduced. Since the adolescents need to be respected and be heard, he or she has no alternative than to conceive which is unwanted and unprepared for. They may feel having a baby will affirm their adult status and make the fathers of the babies stay in their lives to provide love and affection. The fathers are mostly unemployed and not highly educated. Some families have a history of early reproduction which continues unto the generations that follows. They claim, “your mother gave birth to her first child at the age of fourteen (14) and finished reproducing her ten (10) children at the age of twenty-six (26) and what are you waiting for ?”. This becomes like an obligation to the adolescent who may have no choice but to oblige.
Other forms of violence such as beating, rape, maltreatment etc and exploitations as prostitution etc. which limits the adolescents behaviour choices lead to teenage pregnancy which is unwanted. These social factors destroys the adolescents life.
Thirdly, the economic factor is a major risk. Every adolescent have the right and need for shelter, food, clothes, education, healthcare and spiritual values from the family or home. The lack of provision of these basic need gives the adolescent the chance to seek for` them outside the home. And nothing comes free in life. They pay for these basic needs in kind. That is sex. She needs a place to sleep or shelter which she will have to seek and by any means everywhere. She needs clothes to wear, food to eat for growth, education to enhance her living and healthcare. If these things are not provided by the family, she will find a provider outside the home. These providers mostly are men who sleeps with them and impregnate them. These
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men will not educate, feed, cloth, and shelter the adolescent girl for free. There must be some payment which is mostly unwanted and unprepared for by the adolescent girl. With hardship in the home, the adolescent girl will have to find something to do to keep her going, therefore the need for selling, prostitution etc comes into mind which leads to teenage pregnancies. The teenagers who mostly become pregnant are teenagers who live in poor neighbourhood, comes from poor families, performs poorly in school and become drop outs compared to financially sound and academically good teenagers. Then the realisation that teenagers who grow up in poverty and have little opportunities to break from it or find a good provider may feel they have nothing to lose by getting pregnant or becoming a teenage mother.
These are the causes of teenage pregnancy; social, biological and economic factors.
The effects of teenage pregnancy does not only harm the individual but the child and the nation also. The teenage mothers face financial problems. They may not get a highly educated man who earns much salary, therefore there will emerge difficulties in the buying of baby cloths, diapers, food etc. Medical bills may also become a problem and the eating of balanced and nutritional food during pregnancy and after delivery. These teenage mothers also have a less satisfaction with their lives and a higher level of stress compared to single teenagers without children. Whiles a teenager who is single and without children moves around smartly and freely, a teenager with a child will be carrying the child on the back and cannot even exercise her freedom of moving around. The teenage mothers also have poorer relations with their children compared to grown and married mothers. There may be complications of pregnancy and delivery and possible maternal and neonatal illnesses and deaths. It embarrasses them and makes them feel low among friends in the future.
The children in this situation are worse of, average than children who live with their parents and mostly are married. Children of these teenage mothers are more likely to have low educational goals, drop out of school usually JHS. They become thieves, alcoholics and drug addicts at an early stage. They also become pregnant and bear children early, mostly at teenage. They may also get divorced or not get married at all. They may however become poor into adulthood.
However, the nation will have problems if these children become drop-outs, thieves, alcoholics, drug addicts and also keep bearing children at teenage. When these children become blockheaded and drop-out of school the education standard will become low leading to fall in literates or personnel for nation building. They will also be high level of unemployment since the people to work will not be reaming in the street without certificates and the nation will loose its revenue. Recently women are being empowered which is a good thing to be done. Teenage pregnancy can bring down women empowerment through the lowering of the teenagers self-esteem. When the pregnancy occurs, the family of the girl do not seek solution. Either for the men who were responsible to marry the girls or they keep the girls and after delivery encourage her to continue her education. But they leave the problem unsolved which brings down the teenagers self-esteem and makes her feel there is nothing more for her and she will neither loose nor gain. Teenage pregnancy also increase the number of street children which the nation is trying to minimise. It will also bring about a lot of death through abortion since some teenagers think abortion can be a solution.
Teenage pregnancy can be prevented to a large extent. The reduction in teenage pregnancy will contribute to a reduction of the unacceptable high maternal and infant illness and death.
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recorded in Ghana. There is the need for the education on sexuality to be intensified in schools starting from primary level. There should be vigorous health education campaign targeted at young people. Teenagers should be trained as peer educators in schools. Adolescent parents should be educated to prevent the repetition of adolescent pregnancy. Clubs must be formed in districts to train young people to become role models for themselves. In the Upper East region, five (5) adolescent health clubs were formed in the Talensi Nabdam District. At the end of the year 2007, Eastern Region had registered ninety-nine (99) youth clubs. These clubs must be organised continually to educate teenagers on their health.
To the adolescents, abstinence from all forms of sex will not make a girl pregnant and it is also a delay tactic. They must use condoms correctly every time they have sex and that is ninety-eight percent (90) effective. They must use emergency contraceptives within five (5) days of unprotected sex which is seventy-five to eighty-nine percent (75 – 89%).
The right of adolescents must be protected for them to develop into a well-balanced people who are adequately prepared to enter adulthood. Parents and guardians must fulfil with care the rights and responsibilities. They must provide direction and guidance to their adolescent children in the exercise of their rights. States parties must take effective measures to ensure that adolescents are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Adolescent girls should have access to information on the harm that early marriage and early pregnancy can cause. Adolescent boys and girls should be given the opportunity to participate actively in planning programme for their own health and development. Finally adolescent should be helped to feel appreciated, have believe in their own worth, know their rights and responsibilities and have a sense of belonging as well as hope for the future.
Those who had already fallen in the trap should not be neglected. They should be encouraged to attend antenatal and postnatal. They should be supported financially and emotionally. They should be helped in taking care of their babies. They should let them know that they have a right to health care etc. it is the responsibility of parents, friends, teachers and everyone to encourage them to not give up education when the need comes for them to go and deliver. They should be empowered to pursue their dreams and go high.
Adolescent or teenage pregnancy is caused by many factors. It affects the teenage mother, the nation and the child. But it can be largely prevented. The problem of adolescent pregnancy is everybody’s concern. It is not far from you and neither is it far from me.