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Are we purposely blinding ourselves from the grave scenario of teenage pregnancy in India?

Kajal Parmar

Today’s adolescents will be our future. The adolescence, 11 to 19 years, is the developmental phase from childhood to adulthood. This developmental phase brings lots of physical, biological, psychological and social changes in everyone’s life. The future of young people and thus the future of a nation mainly depend upon the way these young people deal with their transition phase of childhood to teenage to adulthood. In a country like India, which is a home to about 253 million adolescent, it becomes very necessary to cater the unmet needs especially concerning to the health of these teenagers at a very first level.

The result of one such unmet need is the issue of teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy is gaining a veiled momentum in our nation. As per a report of World Health Statistics 2018, India is one among some nations those who are accounting for half of all adolescent births (World Health Statistics, 2018). If all pregnancies occurring will be taken into the account and not only the births, the number will further increase. As many of such cases go unnoticed and unreported as early pregnancy is not always a deliberate choice of girls. There are many factors lying behind the occurrence of early motherhood or pregnancy. Girls may be under pressure to have sexual intercourse with their partners, forced child marriages and pressure to bear children early, sexual assault and violence, lack of education and awareness and limited access to contraception.

As per a report by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2013, India will retain the biggest national adolescent girl population with hardly any net change from 2010 to 2030 (93 million to 95 million). This will result in a significant higher risk of pregnancy among the teenagers. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16 - In India, 8 percent of women age 15-19 have begun childbearing; 5 percent of women have had a live birth and 3 of women percent are pregnant with their first child. The level of teenage childbearing declined between 2005-06 (16 percent) and 2015-16 (8 percent). The decline is higher for women who have had a live birth (from 12% to 5%) than for women who were pregnant with their first child (from 4 percent to 3 percent) between 2005-06 and 2015-16. But this decline is marginal in comparison with the increase in teenage population.

Although in comparison with National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) 2005-06, NFHS-4 has a decline in the percentage of teenage pregnancy in various states of the country. Most of the states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh have such a higher numbers of teenage pregnancy that the line of this decline will be blurred in coming years if no significant measures to deal with it will be carved out. Also it is crucial to mention that the Himachal Pradesh and Manipur states of the country have an increase in the number of teenage pregnancy from 2005-2006 to 2015-2016. The study also reported the early initiation of sexual intercourse among the youth. Poor knowledge about the sexual and reproductive health is leading to this trend. Almost half of the adolescent girls before 18 years in India are sexually active.

The age old tradition of early marriages contributes to a significant number of teenage pregnancies. Even most of the teenage pregnancies occur in the context of early marriages in India. About 27 percent of women and 17 percent of men marry before reaching the minimum legal age of marriage in India. The states like West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Tripura have a higher trend of early marriages, (NFHS-4) (2015-16). This trend is higher among rural population than the urban population and also higher among poor and backward population. Any teenage pregnancy whether occurring out-of wedlock or with-in wedlock is fatal for the life of a young girl.

A report by WHO in 2018 reveals that the leading cause of death for 15-19 year-old girls globally is the complications from pregnancy and childbirth. Early pregnancy or motherhood leaves a teenage girl on the verge of destruction on the physical, mental, social and economical aspects. Whether the pregnancy ended up to abortion or the delivery of the child, the post-partum effects leads to grave changes in the lives of young girls and badly affect their future too. These pregnancies further put the lives of young girls at a deadly risk, because at this tender age they both physically and mentally are not ready to conceive a baby. So both the pregnant teen and her unborn baby remain vulnerable under higher risks of health problems and complications.

 The unsafe abortions are as deadly as mortality. The problems related with the abortion involve injury to the cervix or uterus, haemorrhage, pelvic infections and infertility. Even though if pregnancy occurs, the after pregnancy effects are more horrible. The post-partum effects among the young women in India are worrisome and are badly managed thus making the cases of teenage pregnancy more haunting. The early pregnancy can lead to anaemia, high blood pressure, premature birth, low birth weight, preeclampsia and the list will go on. This can cost the lives of both the mother and the unborn or newborn. In a socially and culturally conservative society like India these factors are mostly attached with social stigma thus making it more crippling for young girls to seek early help. Even the appropriate interventions to this issue are itself entangled in the web of societal shame and taboo. Because of low awareness of reproductive health and lack of access and courage among teenagers out of sheer humiliation to seek contraception, the grave problem of teenage pregnancy knocks the door and left the young girls vulnerable to ruination and thus strangles their lives.

There is a need for action at both policy and executional level. The issue needs a broader approach and interventions on reproductive health education, promotion, awareness and care is required at the initial level. Dedicated campaigns are required to address adolescent sexual health problems and issues and access to contraception methods. Here media needs to play a positive role in shaping the minds of people on the issue of teen pregnancy from a conventional understanding of a blunder needed a punishment to an issue needed an intervention.

References
UNFPA (2013). Adolescent Pregnancy: A Review of Evidence. Retrieved from https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/ADOLESCENT%20PREGNANCY_UNFPA.pdf
National Family Health Survey (2006). Retrieved from http://rchiips.org/nfhs/factsheet.shtml
National Family Health Survey (2016). Retrieved from http://rchiips.org/nfhs/nfhs4.shtml
National Family Health Survey (2016). Himachal Pradesh. Retrieved from http://rchiips.org/nfhs/NFHS-4Reports/HimachalPradesh.pdf
World Health Statistics (2018). Monitoring Health for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272596/9789241565585-eng.pdf?ua=1
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) (2018). India Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy based on NFHS-4. Retrieved from http://ncpcr.gov.in/showfile.php?lang=1&level=1&&sublinkid=1670&lid=1677

Kajal Parmar is a PhD student in Public Health Communication from the School of Journalism, Mass Communication and New Media, Central University of Himachal. She often writes for different Newspapers & Magazines.

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Frontier
Mar 4, 2019


Kajal Parmar [email protected]

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