(Updated 2:18 p.m.) - From 2000 to 2010, the number of live births by teenage mothers in the Philippines rose by more than 60 percent, latest data from the National Statistics Office showed.
As if this is not alarming enough, NSO data also revealed that the number of teenage mothers who gave birth to their second (and third, fourth, and even their fifth) baby during their teenage years likewise increased in the last 10 years, according to data presented at a press conference in Quezon City on Monday by Carmelita Ericta, administrator and civil registrar general of the National Statistics Office. A total of 207,898 mothers aged below 20 years old gave birth in 2010. In 2000, however, this number was only 126,025, NSO said.
This rise in statistics is also reflected in the 2011 annual report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-Philippines, which showed that teen pregnancy in the Philippines went up by 70 percent from 114,205 in 1999 to 195,662 in 2009.
Statistics show that more and more female teenagers are giving birth and becoming mothers at an early age. This is a global trend, but it is striking to note that in the ASEAN region, the Philippines has the third highest teen pregnancy rate and is the only country in the region where the rate is increasing, data from the National Youth Commission showed.
July 11: World Population Day
To bring global attention to this important topic, Adolescent Pregnancy has been made the theme for this year’s World Population Day to be held on Thursday, July 11.
“Adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, it is a development issue,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA executive director, in a statement read on Monday by Dr. Reena Dona of the UNFPA.
“It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights,” Osotimehin added.
Their health and their future
According to UNFPA global statistics, about 16 million girls aged 15-19 give birth each year.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth can cause grave disabilities, and are the leading cause of death for young women, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released for World Population Day.
Adolescent girls also face high levels of illness, injury and death due to unsafe abortion, Ban added.
Apart from the immediate physical risks, early pregnancy also jeopardizes the rights, health, education and potential of many adolescent girls, robbing them of a better future, Osotimehin said.
The 2011 Family Health Survey of the National Statistics Office reports that women who became mothers in their teens were less likely to finish their education. Needless to say, teen pregnancy also contributes to a country’s high population growth rate and a high percentage of young people needing more resources on health, education and food.
“It is alarming that almost 10 percent of all Filipino women aged 15-19 have already given birth. This is a reality that we must address,” said Benjamin D. de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc.
"A high rate of teen pregnancy also means a high risk for maternal deaths among our young girls," de Leon added.
Latest data from the NSO noted the increase in maternal deaths among Pinay teenagers.
"There is an increasing trend of maternal deaths among teenagers. The proportion of maternal deaths doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent between 2000 and 2010," Ericta said.
In 2010, 168 Filipina mothers under the age of 20 died giving birth, four of them under the age of 15, NSO data showed.
The Commission on Population also noted that 8.3 percent of the total number of infant deaths were borne to mothers aged below 20 years old.
Benjamin D. de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. at the World Population Day 2013 press conference on Monday. Other speakers at the conference included (L-R) Anzaira Roxas (Youth Advocate, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines), Dr. Reena Dona (Assistant Representative, UNFPA), Hon. Percival Cendana (Commissioner, National Youth Commission), and Carmelita Ericta (Administrator and Civil Registrar General, National Statistics Office). Photo by Ime Morales
The changing social context
Commissioner Percival Cendana of the National Youth Commission believes that lack of information is one of the primary reasons why the problem continues to persist.
He shared stories about the myths that many young people still believe today: standing up during sex or peeing right after sexual intercourse will prevent pregnancy.
He added that early menarche, perhaps from the food we eat, is also another reason why teenage pregnancy is on the rise.
Finally, Cendana also pointed out that it is much easier and faster to develop “relationships” these days, with all the gadgets and online social networks that are available at young people’s disposal.
Education and information
Helping our young women involve establishing “better policies, improved education and information campaigns and programs that can reach our adolescents in schools, in communities or wherever they may be,” said de Leon.
Ban has urged the governments of the world, communities and individuals to work together to “get girls into primary school and enable them to receive a good education through their adolescence. When a young girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, delay childbearing until she is ready, have healthier children, and earn a higher income.“
The youth, the UN agency emphasized, must be provided with age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to develop the knowledge and skills they need to protect their health. This is especially important to empowering young women to decide when and if they wish to become mothers. —KG, GMA News