Early pregnancies and re-integration

Earlier this week, this newspaper reported that 38 adolescent mothers completed the re-integration programme though the Education Ministry.
These young mothers now have a chance and opportunity to be gainfully employed and take care of their children. This opportunity, like the reintegration into the formal school system, gives adolescent mothers a prospect to a good education, thus providing them with the foundation to have a better life.
Sometime ago, after reports surfaced in the media that teenage girls, aged 13 and 15, from the Lower Pomeroon area, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), had become pregnant and had subsequently given birth to twins, there was much uproar about the lack of will at the level of policy-makers, and the lack of guidance at the social level, to help prevent teenage pregnancy. Also, this publication had reported some time ago of a 14-year-old girl, also from the Pomeroon River, who was hospitalised after she had tried to abort her unborn baby and had injured herself. This is a typical example of what happens when one becomes pregnant at a very young age, and possibly gets into a state of depression due to that pregnancy.
The fact that our students, who ought to be at school educating and preparing themselves to face life’s challenges, are engaging in such unwholesome and life changing activities is very worrying. Our adolescents would certainly have to face the consequences of these poor choices later down the road. The resulting problems could be many; for example: severe health complications for both the mother and child, and serious social and economic problems.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in one of its reports, had stated that adolescents aged 10-19 years account for 11 per cent of all births worldwide, and for 23% of the overall burden of disease due to pregnancy and childbirth.
The Organization has reported that 14 percent of all unsafe abortions in low- and middle-income countries are among women aged 15–19 years. About 2.5 million adolescents have unsafe abortions every year, and adolescents are more seriously affected by complications than are older women.
Many health problems are particularly associated with negative outcomes of pregnancy during adolescence. These include anaemia, malaria, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, postpartum haemorrhage, and mental disorders such as depression.
Likewise, the social problems, both on families and the community, are many. Many girls who become pregnant have to leave school. This has long-term implications for them as individuals, their families, and communities. For example, when an adolescent girl becomes pregnant, her entire life is affected, as her focus can no longer be her academic studies; she would now have to dedicate all her energies and resources to child rearing and caring. In most cases, the male partner is also similarly affected.
That said, we believe that in many of these cases, especially in girls under 15, such pregnancies are not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather an absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control. Early pregnancies reflect powerlessness, poverty and pressures – from partners, peers, families and communities. Hence, there is need for approaches that build girls’ human capital; help them make decisions about their lives, including matters of sexual and reproductive health; and offer them real opportunities, so that motherhood is not seen as their only destiny.
Girls need to have access to both sexual and reproductive health services, and to the right kind of information, so that they can make informed choices about their own lives. In many communities, especially in the hinterland areas, these services are lacking.
In May 2011, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution urging member states to accelerate actions to improve the health of young people. It included these specific measures: reviewing and revising policies to protect young people from early child-bearing; providing access to contraception and reproductive health-care services; and promoting access to accurate information on sexual and reproductive health.
It is very commendable that the Education Ministry continues to help teen moms through the Re-integration of Adolescent Mothers programme. This affords teen mothers the opportunity to be productively employed, and for those who choose to re-enter the formal school system, they can do so successfully.