The rising figures of teenage pregnancies remain a huge concern today.
There is a story each teenage mother has to tell, of problems they are facing, or have faced for the disheartening effects of teen pregnancy.
These young mothers not only have high risks of serious health complications to themselves and their babies, they are also prone to social and emotional distress.
Miriam Batamuriza, a lecturer at the University of Rwanda, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Rwamagana campus, explains the dangers of teenage pregnancies.
She says, first and foremost, obstetric consequences are bound to happen among other effects.
Anaemia, Batamuriza says, rises during pregnancy, because teenage mothers often can’t afford healthy foods, or don’t even know how to prepare healthy meals that would keep them and their unborn babies safe.
Even after birth, the baby is likely to suffer malnutrition if no intervention is made to improve nutrition.
STI’s and HIV/AIDS: Young mothers are at risk of sexually transmitted infections and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, she says.
Also, abortions are a possible effect, according to the lecturer, and she explains that this comes as a result of harsh health conditions; sometimes their bodies can’t support pregnancy and they end up losing their baby.
“Some abortions, however, are induced. Some mothers choose not to have the baby and deliberately terminate their pregnancies. This comes with effects of infections and diseases, even death,” she says.
Malformation of the baby is also a possible effect. This could be caused by malnutrition, and the lack of some hormones.
This, Batamuriza says, is often caused by malnutrition and stress. It can also be caused by STI’s.
Prolonged labour can also be an effect of teen pregnancy. This is when one exceeds the normal time to be in labour.
Obstructed labour is another factor. This is when the baby does not exit the pelvis during childbirth due to being physically blocked. It may also lead to birth trauma to babies, especially when the doctors use much force to help them come out. In some cases, the baby may not have enough oxygen to keep them alive.
And in some instances, there is a possibility of giving birth to an underweight baby; it is when the baby has less weight than the normal standard minimum weight of new-borns. This can be caused by malnutrition.
Other health consequences, Batamuriza mentions, include high blood pressure, Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID), depression, and stunting (for the baby).
Financial constraints are at times faced by teenage mothers, for they in most cases don’t have jobs yet they have responsibilities to care for themselves and the baby as well.
Batamuriza also says misunderstandings in the family are bound to happen. When a teenage girl gets pregnant or even gives birth, this may lead to constant misunderstandings and some families may harass these girls or even their babies.
“Low self-esteem; this is often caused by how the teenage mother is treated by her family or friends. She might even think she doesn’t fit in society because she had a baby. This may lead to poor decision making of rushing into marriage, drug abuse or prostitution. Some may have suicidal thoughts.”
Social stigma is another social aspect, Batamuriza points out. Some people in society may stigmatise teenage mothers, which may make them feel ashamed, inferior, and worthless at times.
School dropouts; risks of dropping out of school are high. This then leads to poor living conditions of both mother and child in the future.
Measures to prevent this
Batamuriza believes something should be done to minimise these pregnancies. She shared some of the possible measures below;
Avoiding peer pressure: Teenagers should not engage in sexual activities just because their friends are.
Using social media in helpful ways: Teenagers shouldn’t use social media for dating, or avoid watching things that lure them into sexual behaviours. It should be about things that are constructive, and can give them a better future.
Gratefulness: One should not want to live a life they can’t afford. This is because ungratefulness makes one vulnerable to manipulation from men, who would then impregnate them.
Confidence: Teenagers should feel they are smart, beautiful and capable of leading better lives. They shouldn’t have boyfriends out of desperation, or thinking they need to have them as proof of their beauty.
Information: Teenagers should inform themselves on reproductive health. This will help them prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
Run away from sexual behaviours: One should avoid getting involved in anything that may result into sex. It could be listening to sexual discussions, watching pornography, or meeting their boyfriends in isolated places.
Body control: Teenagers should learn how to control their bodies, and not get engaged in sexual actions, by saying ‘no’, walking away, or controlling their thoughts.
Protection: This, however, is the last resort. If one can’t abstain from sex, they should at least prevent pregnancy by having protected sex.