Early pregnancy is one of the pressing issues Filipino youths are facing today. The Philippines has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates among the ASEAN member states despite the decrease of total live births of teenage mothers (aged 10-19) in 2016 (203,085) to 183,000 in 2019. According to the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom), the Philippines has recorded a 7% increase in births among girls aged 15 and below in 2019. Filipino minors who gave birth in 2019 increased to 62,510 from 62,341 in 2018. In 2019, 2,411 very young adolescents aged 10 to 14 gave birth, or almost seven every day. One in three births among minors occurred in the three regions of Calabarzon with 8,008, National Capital Region with 7,546, and Central Luzon with 7,523 births. Outside Luzon, the highest number of minors who gave birth were in Northern Mindanao with 4,747 cases, Davao Region with 4,551, and Central Visayas with 4,541.
Early childbearing may result in poor health outcomes and may be a threat to the country’s economic growth. Pregnant adolescents are less likely to complete higher education and have lesser ability to earn more income over the course of a lifetime, causing economic losses to the country. According to the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS 2017) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the percentage of young women who have begun childbearing is lower in urban areas than in rural areas (7% versus 10%). Young women with some primary education and those from the poorest households are more likely to have begun childbearing than young women with higher education levels and those from the wealthiest households.
Pregnancy during teenage years is also associated with a higher risk of health problems such as preeclampsia, anemia, contracting STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), premature delivery, postpartum hemorrhage, and poor mental health outcomes. Teenage mothers are more likely to experience violence and depression that can increase the risk of mental disorders. Mothers with poor maternal health are more likely to give birth to a low birth-weight baby, with inadequate complementary feeding and breastfeeding, frequent infections, and inadequate food, health and care, the low birth-weight baby will grow as a stunted child, a stunted teenager, and finally to a malnourished pregnant woman who, in turn, has another low-birth-weight baby, and the cycle persists through generations. Their body may compete with developing fetuses being carried for nutrition and may not be psychologically ready to nurse babies after delivery since some pregnancy among teenagers is either unintended or unwanted. Lack of knowledge on nutrition can also lead to poor health outcomes.
Pregnancy can be a perfect time to improve nutrition. Adolescents can relate to specific foods better than vague nutrients of which they have little knowledge. Pregnant adolescents have identified that nutrition messages should include information on eating appropriately for the baby's and mother's health, offer advice on foods for physical comfort, and emphasize specific foods rather than nutrients (Skinner, Carruth, Ezell, & Shaw, 1996). During pregnancy, the body goes through lots of physical and hormonal changes. To feed your growing baby, you need to make great food choices from a variety of sources. Pregnant mothers especially those teenage mothers are recommended to eat a healthy and balanced diet that will provide them and their babies need. The food you eat is your baby’s main source of nourishment, so it’s very important to get all of the nutrients you need.
According to the World Health Organization, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading causes of death among girls aged 15-19 years globally, with low and middle-income countries accounting for 99% of global maternal deaths of women aged 15-49 years. Teenage pregnancy was declared as “National Social Emergency'' in the Philippines. To curb the rise in teenage pregnancy cases, the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom), Department of Social Welfare and Development and Save the Children Philippines — an organization to support Filipino children, together with other agencies, are looking forward to the swift passage of a bill that institutionalize a national policy on teenage pregnancy prevention.
-PNC-ZDN Rowence F. Zorilla
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