Actions preventing teenage pregnancy amid COVID-19 limit teenage risks to poor health and wellbeing, poverty, insecurity, and death. The COVID -19 pandemic has caused nationwide school closures affecting girls the most. And according to the United Nations, about 5.2 million girls are at risk of not returning to education following school closures due to COVID-19. But the major fallout of school closures is teenage pregnancy.
Scope Of The Problem
Teenage pregnancies are a global problem. However, teenage pregnancies are more likely to occur in marginalised communities. These teenage pregnancies are prompted by poverty, lack of education, and employment opportunities. Hence every year, about 21 million girls aged 15–19 years in developing countries become pregnant. And about 12 million of them give birth.
Factors That Contribute To Teenage Pregnancies
School closures during COVID-19
Causes of teenage pregnancy intensified by 65% during COVID-19 due to school closures. School closures encourage girls to spend more time with boys and men than they normally would which often leads to risky sexual behaviour. And increases the risk of sexual violence and exploitation.
Pressure to marry and bear children early
In many societies, girls are under pressure to marry and bear children early. In less developed countries, at least 39% of girls marry before they are 18 years of age, and 12% before the age of 15.
Lack of education and job prospects
In many places, girls choose to become pregnant because they have limited educational and employment prospects. So frequently in such places, motherhood is valued. While marriage and childbearing may be the best of the limited options available.
Knowledge gaps about contraceptive methods
Teenagers who may desire to avoid pregnancies are unable to do so due to knowledge gaps about where to obtain contraceptives, and how to use them.
Sexual violence is another cause of teenage pregnancy. This is widespread with more than a third of girls in some countries saying their first sexual experience was forced.
Risks Of Teenage Pregnancy
There are several risks of teenage pregnancy. These include risks to health, wellbeing, poverty, security, education, and complications from pregnancy and childbirth. However, health, social and economic effects from teenage pregnancy remain significant in view of lost opportunities that ensued.
Early pregnancies among teenagers have major health effects on mothers and their babies. The fact remains that pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15–19 years globally. Teenage mothers aged 10–19 years face higher risks of birth complications than women aged 20–24 years. Additionally, some 3.9 million unsafe abortions among girls aged 15–19 years occur each year. This further contributes to maternal mortality, morbidity, and lasting health problems.
Social and economic effects
Social effects for single pregnant teenagers include stigma, rejection, or violence by partners, parents, and peers. Girls who become pregnant before the age of 18 years are more likely to experience violence within a marriage or partnership. Teenage pregnancy and childbearing often end teenagers’ education, which may threaten girls’ future education and subsequent employment opportunities.
List Of Actions Preventing Teenage Pregnancy Amid COVID-19
How to prevent teenage pregnancy is a major concern in countries with a higher rate of teenage pregnancy. For example, school closures related to COVID-19 are increasing teenage pregnancy, unless actions are put in place to stop this trend.
Provision of sexual and reproductive health education and services
Deliver gender-responsive education to create discrimination-free classroom environments. Plus sexual and reproductive health education to help reduce teenage pregnancy.
Continue teenagers’ schooling amidst the devastating effect of COVID-19
Ensure learning continues during school closures through distance education, as well as sensitisation messages on gender equality. In addition, ease the girls’ return upon reopening of schools.
Create awareness to mitigate teenage pregnancy
Organise public awareness and specific back-to-school campaigns to help mitigate teenage pregnancy during school closures. Also, make certain that girls who become pregnant are returned to school upon reopening.
Allocate appropriate education budget
Allocate appropriate education budget and protect against potential cuts. Similarly promote supportive measures for pregnant girls to continue their education, safe and protected during the COVID-19 crisis.
Collaborate with the UN and WHO to prevent teenage pregnancy
Several non-governmental organisations have been active to prevent teenage pregnancy in many countries through bold and innovative projects. There is now a small but growing number of successful government-led national programmes, such as in Chile, Ethiopia, and the United Kingdom.
Likewise, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is working closely with different global partners to prevent teenage pregnancy. For example, the WHO teams up with UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA to accelerate actions to end child marriage. Besides, WHO collaborates with Family Planning 2020. This is a global partnership working to enable 120 million more women and girls to access contraceptives by 2020.
In conclusion, actions preventing teenage pregnancy during COVID-19 must resolve the underlying motivators through effective programs. Such programs should guarantee the continuation of education during COVID-19, influence sex education, and promote health, education, and economic development.
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