NSTP: Pregnancy Statistics and Health Trends

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By Victor Layug, contributor

Number of Teenage Brides in the Philippines, from 2000-2010. From a presentation at the National Summit on Teen Pregnancy, September 2012.

This is the fourth in a series of Mulat Pinoy’s coverage of selected topics from the 1st National Summit on Teen Pregnancy, conducted on September 14, 2012 at the Heritage Hotel, Manila.

Ms. Carmelita Erica of the National Statistics Office was the first speaker of the second half of the summit’s panel discussion. She brought with her several facts and figures, since it was exactly that kind of data that is often asked for when the problem of teen pregnancy is discussed.

According to the last Philippine census, out of a population of 92 million, those in the age range of 10-19 years old accounted for 28.5%, and it is this 28.5% that are at risk of becoming teen parents. The census also showed a decreasing number of teenagers getting married, from 85,000 to 62,000, and in turn, there were 207,000 babies born to teenage parents. Some of these teen parents would even go on to have up to a 5th child by the time they are 19.

Sadly, the high number of teenagers having numerous babies also implies that these women have very high-risk pregnancies, which put both themselves and the baby in danger. This number would be significantly reduced had these mothers been informed about how to avoid getting pregnant. According to the Family Health Survey, only 29% of those aged 10-19 are able to avail of family planning. What is even more shocking is how 37% of teen mothers nowadays don’t even have consensual sex, with approximately 900 respondents saying they have experienced some sort of violence.

Doctor Juanita Basilio from the Department of Health was the second speaker for this segment, and she spoke of the various aspects of Kalusugang Pangkalahatan, otherwise known as KP, which is part of the Universal Healthcare aspect of the Aquino Health Agenda. It is also a strategy that is in accordance with United Nation Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG5, whose sub-targets are improving maternal health, and increasing access to reproductive health services, among others. Furthermore, KP aims to help enact policies and implement cautionary conditions that aim to curb cases of AIDS among women and children, particularly pregnant women.

Number of Live births in the Philippines, from a presentation at the National Summit on Teen Pregnancy, September 2012.

Dr. Basilio then presented several facts from the Family Health Survey of 2011, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and jointly funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the World Bank. The survey tells us that maternal mortality rates have not improved since 2006, with the number escalating from 162 to 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Cases of teen pregnancy have also risen, with 54 live births per 1000 women aged 15-19, as compared to 39 live births per 1000 women in 2006.

The 3rd resource speaker was Dr. Josefina Natividad of the University of the Philippines Population Institute. She began by stating how, among ASEAN countries, the Philippines is the only country with a continuously rising number of teen pregnancies despite countries such as Thailand and Malaysia having a similar standing to the Philippines when it come to economic development.

According to the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, among those aged 19, 1 in 4 have already begun childbearing, whereas among those aged 15, there are 1 in 10. Yet the risk of becoming pregnant isn’t evenly distributed, especially when it comes to factors such as educational attainment and socio-economic status, with 20% of those who only finished primary education already having children, 6.8% of those who only finished secondary education, and 4.8% of those who only finished tertiary education. Even those coming from well-off families have been reported as becoming teen mothers, proving that even the most affluent individuals are not safe from teen pregnancy.

Dr. Josefina Natividad of the University of the Philippines Population Institute, speaking at the Child Protection Network Manila Conference, December 2012.

Over the past 40 years, teen pregnancy rates in the Philippines have remained stable, albeit at a high level, despite the declining level of fertility as of 2006. There is still a potential for these teen pregnancy rates to soar even higher, though, if nothing is done to prevent them.

Some trends that contribute to teen pregnancy are:

  • Earlier onset of menstrual cycle among young women;
  • Less parental supervision: Usually both parents work, leaving children with more opportunities to do what they want;
  • Change in norms and values, which in turn means that there is less of a stigma for those who become pregnant outside the bounds of marriage;
  • Peer pressure for earlier sexual engagement, especially among young males;
  • Society today is more accepting of sexual intimacy in teenage relationships;
  • Inadequate core life skills in the faces of these challenges; life skills are defined by UNESCO as the ability for adaptive and positive behavior to face the demands and challenges of everyday life.

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