How did I get Pregnant?
“I went to the hospital for back pain and stomach issues. Well, they found it, I was six weeks pregnant with twins.”
Teenage pregnancy is when female adolescents become pregnant between the ages of thirteen to nineteen years old, and Uganda is one of the developing countries that have the highest rates of teenage mothers.
WHAT DID I DO WRONG?
Nothing! You did nothing wrong. You just …
Grew up in a society where sex talks are a taboo
The silencing of the sex topic in Uganda has led to staggering rates of teenage pregnancies, most of them unplanned. According to the country’s 2011 demographic and health survey, nearly a quarter of girls aged 15 to 19 have had a baby or are pregnant.
Got forced into marriage
Uganda is home to child marriages, poverty, illiteracy, and lack of accessible health facilities, which all contribute to teenage pregnancies. Many Ugandan girls are married off to older and richer men in exchange for cows, which forces them into relationships that they were not prepared for. Husbands of child brides abuse them sexually, forcing them into sexual activities without any protection and violating their sexual rights, resulting in unwanted pregnancies or the birth of many unwanted children in families.
Have an unsteady relationship with your parents
The root cause of teenage pregnancies is the lack of sex talks among parents and their children. Even those families who try to give their children the talk only teach them to “abstain from any sexual activity until marriage and to avoid being around boys,” which does not make sense compared to what the world is teaching them when they access media or porn sites. Adolescents lack steady relationships with their parents, which results in ignorance of the sex talk and parents only giving out partial information.
Lack sex education
The lack of complete and comprehensive sexual education results in many young girls being unable to explain how they got pregnant. In Uganda, there’s a high prevalence of teenage pregnancy, especially in the Wakiso District, where young people are sexually active before marriage and without adequate knowledge of sexual and reproductive health. The truth is, either its talked about or not, adolescents are engaging in unsafe sexual intercourse and being sexually abused because they are oblivious of what is right and wrong when it comes to relationships and sexual intercourse.
Got taught to abstain from sexual activities without an explanation
Most teenagers who get pregnant have no idea how it happened, and neither do their parents and schools who made sure to teach them abstinence. Teenage pregnancy is mostly linked to the lack of education and information about reproduction, peer pressure, and early engagement in sexual activity.
Talking about sexual and reproductive health openly with teenagers is not an easy thing, hence parents often prefer to teach them abstinence, especially in the conservative corners of Uganda where sex talks are still considered a taboo. The lack of accurate sexual content leads to teenagers engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse.
Got pressure by ‘Sex Trends’
Peer pressure is also one of the causes of teenage pregnancies worldwide. Sex has become a twenty-first-century ‘trend’ that no adolescent can dodge. Social media, porn sites, magazines, and underrated television channels are the most visited places by majority teenagers, giving them false information and advice. Additionally, some teenage pregnancies are caused by the need to experiment and curiosity from sex education.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?
Low female enrolment
Many pregnant teenagers are forced to abandon their studies and leave school to care for their children while the boys who impregnated them remain in school and continue to get an education. Being without schooling means that the girl child’s chances to fulfill their dreams are shattered, and this contributes to high rates of poverty and unemployment. There is low female enrolment in schools, and this is because only the girl child has to suffer the consequences of teenage pregnancy while the boys continue to chase their dreams.
Maternal/Mortality Deaths and Diseases
Adolescent pregnancy remains a significant contributor to maternal and child mortality. Complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 globally. Pregnant adolescents also face health risks and complications due to their immature bodies. For many adolescents, pregnancy and childbirth are neither planned nor wanted. In countries where abortion is prohibited or highly restricted, adolescents typically resort to unsafe abortion, putting their health and lives at risk. Additionally, babies born to younger mothers are also at higher risk for negligence or infant murder. Pregnant teenagers may face many of the same obstetrics issues as other women. According to Yahaya Gavamukulya (2018), teenage mothers and their babies may also suffer from low birth weight, premature labor, anemia, and pre-eclampsia that connect to the biological age itself.
Adolescent pregnancy can also have adverse social and economic effects on girls, their families, and their communities. Unmarried pregnant adolescents may face stigma or rejection by parents and peers as well as face threats of violence. Girls who fell pregnant out of wedlock are undervalued and labeled inappropriate and a disgrace. Stigmatization can also mean having teenage mothers banned from certain activities in their communities. Teenage mothers are often left to loneliness as families force their peers to unfriend them, leaving them to depression and suicide if not controlled. Many teenagers have died from pregnancy depression and it is without doubt that some of their deaths were a result of their environment being unkind to them.
HOW DO I AVOID IT?
Un-taboo sex talks
The first step to eradicating teenage pregnancies is accepting that sex is a reality that lives all around us and can not be avoided any longer. For decades, African parents have kept sex talk a hidden subject, with the belief that it will protect their children from the realities of it. Sex talks are not taboo, and people who are comfortable talking about it should not be labeled “inappropriate” or “spoilt.” Making sex talks a norm will make it easy for teenagers to have sex talks with their families and peers, and be well informed about the topic.
Get sex educated
Teenage pregnancies, as mentioned above, are a result of the lack of sexual knowledge, which makes sex education a dependable solution for the issue at hand. Sex education is described as the provision of information about physical development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, along with skills-building to help young people communicate about and make informed decisions regarding sex and their sexual health. It occurs throughout a teenager’s life, with information appropriate to their development and cultural background. It includes information about puberty and reproduction, abstinence, contraception and condoms, relationships, sexual violence prevention, body image, gender identity, and sexual orientation (Advocates for Youth, 2019). Sex education is either abstinence-only, a form of sex education that teaches not having sex outside of marriage and excludes the types of sexual and reproductive health education or comprehensive, which covers the use of birth control and sexual abstinence. Trained teachers should teach it. It should be informed by evidence of what works best to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Still, it should also respect young people’s right to complete and factual information.
Get access to health care facilities
Having access to health care facilities suggests that hospitals and clinics should make it easier to access condoms and other contraceptives. It should also encourage teenagers to seek information on sexual health and additional information related to the matter.
IN THE END …
Education, in general, provides knowledge, life skills and opens up future employment opportunities and broad career development; hence, sex education is recommended as a solution for teenage pregnancies in Uganda. According to (Unicef 2015), educating girls, in particular, has been associated with multiple benefits – economic, social, and political gains to the family, community, and nation at large. Education is not only appreciated for opening up opportunities for girls but their families as well as the community. The reported value of girls’ education offers a window of hope for changing the high rates of adolescent pregnancies in Uganda. An educated teenage girl is more likely to protect themselves from early or unwanted pregnancies.
Further, the increased opportunity for education and appreciation for the return of teenage mothers to school offers a second chance for girls to develop their various capabilities. The challenges that these girls face when they return to school require practical action to exploit the opportunity of expanded access to education further. It is essential that we keep the girl child at school and not deprive them of their education because of pregnancy.
Call to Action
Teenage pregnancy is a problem in need of addressing and action in developing countries to secure better futures for girls. This calls for sex education to treat sexual development as a standard, natural part of human development. Instead of telling teenagers to abstain from sexual activities, teach them how to have sex so that when they are ready or pressured to do it, they at least do it the right and safe way. It does not help that abstinence sex education teaches them not to have sex before marriage, and the world shows them a different perspective.
UNICEF, U. (2018). Teenage pregnancy, early marriage crush Miria’s dreams. [online] Unicef.org. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/uganda/stories/teenage-pregnancy-early-marriage-crush-mirias-dreams [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].
UNICEF, U. (2015). Ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda. [online] Unicef.org. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/uganda/reports/ending-child-marriage-and-teenage-pregnancy-uganda [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].
Ochen, A., Chi, P. and Lawoko, S. (2019). Predictors of teenage pregnancy among girls aged 13–19 years in Uganda: a community based case-control study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 19(1).