Alarming growth of teenage pregnancies

ONE OF the captivating and participative yet sensitive topics to discuss in the observance of the Women’s Month Celebration in March is the alarming growth of teenage pregnancies.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority data, and as reported by the POPCOM, the number of Filipino minors (aged 14 years and below) who gave birth in 2019 rose to 7% or 62,510 compared to 62,341 in 2018. There were 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 who gave birth in 2019, revealing an average of seven births every day with Calabarzon, NCR, and Central Luzon registering the highest incidence. Other regions like Northern Mindanao, Davao and Central Visayas also logged a record high.

Notably, the Angeles City LGU implements reproductive health intervention programs under the stewardship of Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin together with Chief Adviser and Tactician IC Calaguas and Executive Assistant IV Reina Manuel. The city government has established Newborn Screening Centers in six rural health units to ensure the effective implementation of Republic Act 9709, otherwise known as the “Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 2009”. The city is also continuously promoting family planning programs – 43,404 condoms, 21,253 lubricants and 308 Information Education Communication (IEC) materials were provided to couples last year. While 31,666 women have availed free consultations and pap smear at the City Health Office’s Reproductive Health and Wellness Center. During last year’s Women’s Month Celebration, the Gender and Development Office (GAD) reported that 391 women have availed free pap smear and breast examination. The city government also allotted P25 million for the skills training and livelihood assistance program for the parents, to ensure that they have the means to sustain their needs and provide their children an adequate standard of living. This includes a P3 million budget for the social pension of all solo parents living in the city.

The Central Mindanao University (PRIO Webmaster, IADalipe-Neri) wrote the eye-opening chronicles of Donna Dage Gevero, an 18-year-old Senior High School student and a mother of a 10-month old baby. She was emotional as she looked back when she was still a plain student and the factors that pushed her to become a mother at a very young age. “I am the eldest of five siblings, and I was pressured by my parents to be the best version of myself as a model to my siblings…there comes a time that what my parents saw in me was my mistakes, was even blamed for the mistakes of my siblings… I resolved to do exactly what my parents wouldn’t want me to do to defy them,” Gevero confessed. She narrated how she was influenced by her friends with vices. She seeks comfort with her boyfriend and friends because she cannot open up with her parents. She also disclosed how she balanced her motherhood duties and her studies. She would study while breastfeeding; she would have sleepless nights and have to attend a 7:00 morning class. She said her grades were affected as she should perform both motherhood and student’s duties.

Another young mother who shared her experience as a young mother at the age of 17 was Junlo-Fe Luzon, an AB psychology alumna. “It’s very hard to become a mother at a very young age—the most difficult is time management especially that I was still studying at that time. It’s also very difficult to budget my allowance because I had to think about my baby’s needs. I also have to choose between the things I want, the things I need and my responsibility to my baby,” Luzon revealed.

Both Luzon and Gevero realized the importance of open communication and to ask for advice from the right people—especially their family who helped them on those difficult times. “In times of difficulty, you can only rely on your family. We have to listen to our parent’s advice—if our parents scolded us it’s because they love us. I am thankful to God that I have my family—our friends they are there in our good times, but it is only our family that we can rely on during difficult times,” Gevero said.

In a related development, Senator Nancy Binay filed Senate Resolution No. 650 recently because it is imperative to conduct a complete assessment and review of all government policies and programs regarding the prevention of adolescent pregnancy in the country. Based on the data revealed by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that two registered live births from girls as young as 10 years old from the National Capital Region (NCR) and Region 4-A (Calabarzon), both of which have a relatively high population. According to the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), pregnancies involving minors were worrying, because cases posed “extra health risks” for the mother and the infant, “including pre-term delivery and severe neonatal conditions.”

According to the United Nations Population Fund, when a girl becomes pregnant, her life can change radically. Her education may end and her job prospects diminish. She becomes more vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, and her health often suffers. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls. Tens of thousands of adolescents die annually of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, these are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls, aged 15-19, globally. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Philippines’ status as a developing country were considered a threat to girl pregnancies, due to difficulties on prenatal and maternal services access. On top of these, the pandemic also “worsened” the difficulty to avail of family planning services that is very crucial in mitigating cases of early pregnancies.