NATIONAL EMERGENCY

This one is for Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.”

Thirteen percent of Filipino girls these days are already pregnant. Demographers call this phenomenon as teenage pregnancy. This happens when a female, who is less than 19 years old, becomes pregnant.

But what is even more alarming is the fact that even girls below 15 years old are already pregnant. That’s according to The Forum for Family Planning and Development (The Forum), an organization that helps educate communities on reproductive health and rights.

I thought teenage pregnancy is a big problem in Metro Manila, being the country’s capital. But I am wrong. It’s right in Davao, where “life is here.” Davao City is part of Davao Region – comprise Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao Occidental and soon, Davao de Oro – which has the highest recorded teenage pregnancy in the country.

With 17.9%, Davao Region tops all other regions, according to the data gathered by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Northern Mindanao settled for second, with 14.7%, and Southwestern Mindanao came third with 14.5%. All these three regions were above the 8.6% national average.

EDGE Davao roving reporter Maya Padillo, who attended the regular press meeting at Habi at Kape, quoted Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) Regional Director Bai Agnes Sampulna who reported 1,838 teenage pregnancies in Davao City alone as of June 2019.

A total of 7,636 teenage pregnancies were recorded by the regional office of the Department of Health in the first quarter of 2019 in Davao Region.
On the national front, Popcom statistics showed that since 2011, pregnancies among 10 to 14-year-old girls increased by 50%. About 530 teenage girls get pregnant every day. In addition, some 30,000 young mothers have already experienced repeated pregnancies.

In a recent development summit held in Manila, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that teen pregnancies have become a “national social emergency” because the appalling rates of adolescent births in the last 10 years already merit “national concern.”

Popcom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III echoed the same concern. “We are now in a situation that requires the declaration of national emergency because social, economic and health are affected… If we don’t act now, we will continue to see an increase of 200,000 teenage parents every year,” Philippine Star quoted him as saying.

In Western countries, teen pregnancy may not be surprising at all. But in a developing country like the Philippines, it may come as a shock – particularly among religious leaders. “From time to time, we always emphasized that pre-marital sex is morally wrong!” said a Catholic priest.

Poverty has been cited as one of the primary reasons why teen pregnancy is thriving! Data from the United Nations Population Fund showed that teenage pregnancy has a huge rate in the country, particularly among the poor. Two-thirds of Filipino women who give birth before age 20 belong to the low-class society.

But poverty is just one of the causes. The website of the Youth in the Philippine Society (YPS) cites other reasons:

The immature and irresponsible behavior arising due to complex teenage psychology is another important cause of teenage pregnancies. Teenagers often go through several emotions because of their own transition from childhood and peer pressure.

The dearth of sexual education among teenagers causes them to get abortions as they ultimately realize their inability to bear the responsibilities of being a parent at such a young age.

The lack of attention and affection from family resulting in depression forces them to seek love and support from other people, especially members of the opposite sex.

Overprotection gives rise to frustration and a feeling of not being loved and cared for. Thus, balance is the key to avoid this problem. Lack of affectionate supervision of parents or guardians results into the adolescents or teenage girl’s becoming pregnant.

“Sex outside of marriage with multiple partners has consequences,” wrote Dr. Mildred R. Yutuc, an obstetrician-gynecologist, in an article which appeared in Health and Home. “And when the girl is only in her teens, the consequences are truly serious.”

According to De Leon, both the young mother and her baby face a life-threatening situation. “The bodies of adolescent and teen girls are not yet ready for the physical demands of childbearing,” he said. “Their babies bear the burden of this unhealthy condition that can lead to infant mortality, as babies born to teen mothers have far lower survival rates.”

Again, due to poverty, “many of those involved in teenage pregnancy die off prematurely because of lack of proper medical attention” the YPS website stated.

A study done by the Population Institute of the University of the Philippines said more than 46% of teenage pregnant women resort to induced abortion. In fact, two out of every 5 teenage pregnancies are unwanted ones, the study said.

Aside from death, De Leon said the most common result is stunting, a condition characterized by slow or impeded growth. Stunting occurs from the time of conception to the first two years of life, also called the “first 1,000 days,” that is caused by the poor nutritional status of mother and child.

Becoming pregnant or having a child at a tender age also means dropping out from schools. “Many pregnant female children end up dropping out from school to avoid shame thus undermining government’s efforts towards ensuring Education for All and the Millennium Development Goal of Education in the nearest future,” the YPS website said.