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The term teenage pregnancy has been in used to refer to those women who get pregnant before they reached the legal adulthood age, mostly girls within the age bracket of 13-17; but this age limit varies across the world. Biology has it that for a girl to be pregnant, she has to first reach the averaged age of menarche (the first menstrual period, the world average age of this has been fixed to 12.5 (Maynard, Rebecca A., 1996) but the latest treads show that this age is declining; some factors that have been propose to are causing this decline include those related to both social and personal aspects of the girl.
UNICEF (Treffers, 2003) released statistical data that, the range of teenage pregnancy is basically about 143 in every 1000 teenagers in the world. It has never been and it will never be good news for a teenager to get pregnant, since the outcome carries with it a lot of shortcomings. Apart from the responsibility aspect, the young mothers face major health risks together with their un-born children, not to mention the termination or disruption of their education. It has therefore been a world wide agenda to try to contain this increasing trend of teenage pregnancy.
In this research paper we will try to look at the major causes of teenager pregnancies, the impacts that the teen pregnancy has on the young mothers as well as their families and finally how the world has responded to the vice-assessing and analyzing if whatever measures that have been put in place are doing anything to help. The paper will also give recommendations to what can possibly be done to bring the trend to manageable level or possibly to a complete halt.
The community and the environment in which a teenager dwells have a lot to influence him/her to shun or get involved in any sexual activity. A strong family tie and high moral values contribute so much in reducing early pregnancy incidences. The economic and social status of the teens in any given setting influence the rate at which teen pregnancy spreads, while the political factors determines the steps that can be taken to tone down the rate.
There trend of teen pregnancy is one funny one…the world overall trend is declining while in some areas like Massachusetts are experiencing rise, especially among the working class community (Keith O’Brien, 2008). In (Metro, Pg. A1), its added that poverty and broken families as well as limited access to relevant information on birth control and contraceptives are some of the major factors that have contributed to this upsurge of teenage pregnancy.
Possible causes of Teen Pregnancy
13 million children are born to mothers below the age of 20 years with more than 90% of them in the developing countries (Save the Children Report-Hofferth & Lori, 2002). This number is so large that if left un-attended will lead to a global disaster that will clear women in the 15-19 brackets. But before we embark on the prevention, let us check on some of the possible causes of teenage pregnancy.
It is common knowledge that no teenager plan to get pregnant, but they eventually do, thanks to the adolescence sexual behavior coupled with peer pressure (Allen Colin, May 22, 2003), drug and alcohol use that push them into getting involved in un-intended sexual acts which lead to pregnancy (Besharov Douglas & Gardiner Karen, 1997). Their ignorance on the knowledge of contraception may be another factor contributing to the rise in the cases of un wanted teenage pregnancies, and on the other hand some may have the knowledge yes, but they feel so embarrassed to go and seek contraceptives owing to the perception that the society has on teenagers having sex. Such teenagers may go ahead and have an un-protected sex for fear of buying a birth control or inquiring information from a medical expert. Adolescence girls or boys who are inexperienced, may ether forget to use their contraceptives or incorrectly use condoms leading to flops in the preventive measure. In 2001 reports indicate that the state funding on the projects that are meant to help fight the spread of teen pregnancy has reduced by 26% (from 5.4 million to 4 million) in 2008. This has caused a lot of strain on their budget; hence a major impediment in the fight, without money, such projects can therefore not perform to reach their objectives. Teenagers limited education coupled with the role of Television Programs that air Sexual related scenes in the rise, we are not about to see any downward trend in the spread. The Boston Globe report of 2nd July 2007 revealed that in 2005, 70 percent of all the television shows and 77 percent of prime time shows contained some sexual content. It also added that in 2007 alone, 750,000 and 4 million teens became pregnant and contacted STD respectively.
Impacts of Teen Pregnancy
The fact that most of them do not receive timely prenatal care put them into serious health risks, teenagers try to hide their pregnancy from the guardians, parents and all the other relevant person in authority and in the long run do not visit the hospitals…the results of such acts range from premature birth and pregnancy related high-blood pressure [which might later lead to death of the mother or the unborn]. For those girls 14 years of age or below, their pelvis bones have not fully matured hence will have difficulty during child birth. If such a complication is not dealt with in a hospital with qualified staff and good facilities, it might lead to maternal death (Elizabeth et al, 2004).
Additional risks on teen pregnancy are associated with socioeconomic factors. For these young mothers, it is an open secret that they will achieve low educational levels if they have to interrupt schooling to take care of their babies; this in turn will raise the poverty rate especially among the population in the developing world.. The social stigma attached to early pregnancy especially if it occurs outside marriage is unmatched, particularly in the developing countries where the traditions and culture still rule the society…at some point both the mother and the child will be declared outcasts.
Methods used in Preventive Measures
With the help of the media, the rate at which the youth get exposed to sexual materials has gone up by several folds. Sex education is of essence in order to give our misguided youths directions to reduce the number of escalating number of pregnancies. Though the introduction of sex education has not gone down well with a section of experts who have warned that by teaching young girls and boys about sex, they will go ahead to experiment for themselves in order to determine what lies on the other side. These experts continue to argue that sex education is doing more harm than good as it is developing a feeling in the child’s’ mind, a feeling that could have not been there in the first place (UCAN- Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network Report, 2006).
Different government officials have taken it upon themselves to promote campaign to reduce teenage pregnancy. Several branches of government have been established and together with other private non-profit making organizations they have joined up action to promote better sex education, improve availability of contraceptives, establish counseling centers to offer advice to the youths and support the young mothers.
Women who have problems following their routines are advised to adopt the use of intrauterine devices, subcutaneous implants or injections. But the use of more than one method of contraceptive measure is encouraged. These devices mentioned above, together with condom barrier methods will protect both parties from contracting or spreading any sexually transmitted infection disease (Besharov Douglas & Gardiner, Karen, 1997, 345).
A total behavioral overhaul or rather change in the ways used in family planning is needed to help fight the vice (Life Science Preventive Report, 2007, Pg. 707)
Challenges Facing the Preventive Measures
In case the damage has been done (when an accidental pregnancy has already occurred) the teenage mother should just try to save what has been left of them and stay responsible. Any attempt to try to reverse situation will just worsen it further. Thoughts of terminating the pregnancy through abortion should not cross their minds as that might even lead to losing their dear lives as well. For those of them that are smokers or taking any hard drug, they are advised to put a stop to the habit for their own sake and that of the babies. Pregnant teenagers are required to follow all the advice given to them by the medical personnel; for instance, taking prenatal vitamins to prevent occurrence of any birth defect. The campaigns at some point can be considered a failure, though not a total one. The 2007 report of the US Centre for disease control said that even after having fallen victim to teenage pregnancy once, some of the teenagers still go ahead for repeat birth. These incidences are highest in Texas where it stands at 24% among Girls aged 15-19. The report adds that once girls start having sex, it is very hard for them to stop. The only possible ways to help a teen at this stage is to keep them on active contraceptives, advise them to stay in school, assist them on family planning and more importantly good parenting.
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There has been a challenging point on when girls are supposed to start using preventive measures. Since the first menstrual period varies with the girls’ weight, environment and even her ethnic grouping, it is very had to gage when the girl is required to start the service/process, any delay can result to the girl getting pregnant. Reports also indicate that at the initial stages of the menstrual cycle, ovulation is very irregular and dates can not be fixed. So the age at which the girls have to start using the contraceptives can not be defined, leaving the best alternative as complete abstinence until the periods stabilizes, or the correct use of condoms if they have to engage in sex (East, Patricia L., 1996).
The fight by private organizations and the government to stem up the use of contraceptives has received mixed reactions with its opponents claiming that it does interfere with one’s health and may lead to complications arising during birth or worse still, the baby might be born with certain deformities (Slater, Jon. (2000). the content of the syllabus of the sex education guide is also been a subject of debate, with some educators promoting “abstinence only” and others “abstinence-plus”.
The government has so much money to fund projects to promote abstinence campaigns which of cause have had little impacts. On The Washington Times of September 7th 2008 (Cecile Richards) revealed that teen pregnancy is a preventable health care crisis. She added that, even though this is so, many teenagers who do not even plan to get pregnant find themselves becoming young parents against their wish. This is so because the abstinence campaigns by different bodies have not been successful in convincing the youths to abstain or delay the age to have sex. The paper stated that a total of 1.5 billion dollars of tax payers money have been wasted on abstinence only programs.
The most effective measure is abstinence, but this is a toll order with the 21st Century youths, but its advocates should not give up since a good number of youths have accepted the idea and put it in practice. Before the die is cast, (before they father or mother an illegitimate child), the teenagers should count themselves lucky and at least use a condom. This step will not only prevent un-wanted pregnancies, but will protect the teenagers from contracting AIDS and HIV and any other sexually transmitted disease (STD). The teenagers should be encouraged to up-hold their religious beliefs high to help them keep off from moral degradation. By encouraging families to engage actively in open conversation on the values and decisions regarding sex, we can achieve a lot. Strong messages to girls stressing to them on the need to wait till they become adults before engaging in sex will definitely push down the early pregnancy rate. The involvement of community welfare groups, schools and churches in the campaign to promote abstinence in their sex education programs have bore fruits. We have seen a significant drop teen pregnancy. Though it is said that there is no complete abstinence that the youths are just using birth control methods (preferably barriers technique) because of fear of AIDS…but all in all it has reduced the cases of early pregnancy (Wendy Kock, 2006).
The media have to come forth and play a major role in selecting only those programs that do not promote but educate the youngsters on good morals. And if they have to air those programs that are relatively provocative, apart from warning the viewers of the age limit they are also supposed to check on their timing. Medical expert report that the correct use of condoms offers 97% protection from pregnancy, pills on the other side give a 99% surety. While these two steps give huge bonuses and certainty, they are both no match to abstinence which gives 100% surety and protection both from pregnancy and STDs…and since most of these youths are not yet married, the best alternative will be to keep off from engaging in any sexual act till they reach of age or better still until they say “I do” (Moncloa Johns et al, 2003, p. 43).
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