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The Perils of Early Pregnancy
1eenage chì|dbearìng poses sìgnìñcant rìsks to the hea|th and |ìves of both young
women and theìr offsprìng
1he number of teenage pregnancìes ìn the
Phì|ìppìnes has ìncreased by about 70% from
2000 to 2010
1here are dìfferìng reasons drìvìng teenage
pregnancìes ìn countrìes across Asìa, but
nonethe|ess, comp|ìcatìons ìn pregnancy ìs
the |eadìng kì||er of young women aged 15 to
19 around the wor|d
1here are steps that can be taken by
government po|ìcy-makers to he|p ìndìvìdua|s
and communìtìes reduce the rìsks from
teenage pregnancìes, ìf not teenage
pregnancìes themse|ves
By Pia Rufno
Jounn CubIIIus wus jusL 1¸ yeurs oId wIen sIe hrsL
got pregnant six years ago. Currently, the teen mother
wIo dIdn`L geL Lo hnIsI Ier sLudIes, sLIII IIves wILI Ier
parent, and works as a part-time waitress to feed her
children whose father is in jail, she recounts to Qatar-
based news network Al Jazeera.
TIe number oI Leenuge moLIers (1¸ Lo 1q yeurs oId)
In LIe PIIIIppInes wIo Iud LIeIr hrsL buby Ius rIsen
Irom 1o¸,;zq In zooo Lo 1;q,o8¸ In zo1o-u neurIy
68% Increuse over 1o yeurs, per data from National
SLuLIsLIcs Ȯce (NSO) posted on the Catholic Bishops
Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website last
monLI. ¡IkewIse, LIe hgures Ior gIrIs uged 1q und beIow
rose from 616 to 1,260 during the same period. By
2010, more than a quarter of all women who gave birth
Lo LIeIr hrsL cIIId were 1¸ Lo 1q yeurs oId. (See LubIe on
opposite page)
Philippines’ teenage-pregnancy rate 2nd highest
in ASEAN. The 2011 State of the World Population
released by the United Nations Population Fund Agency
presents the most recent estimates of adolescent birth
rates by country. Among the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries, the
Philippines has the second-highest teenage pregnancy
ruLe, wILI ¸¸ Leenuge bIrLIs Ior every 1,ooo women,
next to Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) with
110/1,000 women. The adolescent birth rate per 1,000
women In boLI ¡ndonesIu und CumbodIu Is ¸z, IoIIowed
by TIuIIund (q¸), VIeLnum (¸¸), BruneI (z6), Myunmur
(1;) MuIuysIu (1z) und SIngupore (¸).

In this YouTube Video, Joann Cubillas tells Al Jazeera
her situation as a teen mother. Published: June 19, 2012
:NKcenSEI8KVUXZ ‡October 15-28, 2012
The perils of early pregnancy
In her presentation “Teenage Pregnancy in the
PIIIIppInes: ¡ucLs und hgures, Lrends und Issues” during
the National Youth Commission’s National Summit on
Teen Pregnancy last month, Philippines’ Population
¡nsLILuLe proIessor Dr. Josehnu NuLIvIdud noLed LIuL
the Philippines was the only country with an increasing
teenage pregnancy rate among the ASEAN member
counLrIes, bused on 1qq¸-zoo¸ UN data.
Natividad lists the following predisposing factors for
teen pregnancy in the country:
· EurIy onseL oI menurcIe (hrsL mensLruuI cycIe)
· CIunges In IumIIy IIIesLyIes Iess purenLuI
supervision, more opportunities for teenagers
to be on their own (e.g., the phenomenon of
parents being overseas Filipino workers or
having both parents working)
· CIunges In norms und vuIues Iess sLIgmu Ior
pregnancy outside of marriage no compulsion to
marry when one is pregnant more acceptance of
children born out of wedlock
· EurIy onseL oI sexuuI ucLIvILy
· Peer pressure Ior eurIy sexuuI engugemenL
· AccepLubIIILy oI sexuuI InLImucy In Leenuge
· ¡nudequuLe IIIe skIIIs In LIe Iuce oI LIIs cIungIng
A Sept. 21 GMA-7 news report from the National
Summit on Teenage Pregnancy (uploaded to YouTube by
PINASWATCHER1) uIso cILed hgures Irom LIe NuLIonuI
SLuLIsLIcs Ȯce (NSO) sIowIng LIuL LIe number oI
Leenuge pregnuncIes Increused by neurIy 6¸% beLween
zooo (1z¸,z;o) und zo1o (zo6,¸;q), und LIuL LIe
number of pregnancies of women below the age of 14
uIso Increused beLween zooo (;¸¸) und zo1o (1,¸zq).
The report also featured Dr. Emma Llanto, president
of Society of Adolescent Medicine of the Philippines,
who also cited child abuse as a contributor to the rise
of teenage pregnancies in the Philippines, based on her
hndIng LIuL LIe mosL IrequenL conLrIbuLors Lo Leenuge
pregnuncIes In Ier sLudIes were men uged z; Lo z8.
Comparing the Philippines and Laos. Findings
from the zoo8 NuLIonuI DemogrupIIc und HeuILI
Survey conducted by NSO, show that young women who
are poor, less educated (no school or only elementary
schooling), and living in rural areas are more likely
to have given birth than are young women in urban
areas, those who are better educated, and in wealthier
IouseIoIds. (P. ¸o)
AccordIng Lo u June zo11 WorId Bunk counLry prohIe,
“Reproductive Health at a Glance,” early childbearing
in the Philippines is more prevalent among the poor:
“While 31 percent of the poorest 20-to-24 years old
women Iuve Iud u cIIId beIore reucIIng 18, onIy 6
percent of their richer counterparts did.”
Laos, with the highest teenage pregnancy rate among
ASEAN members, has a very young population, with
Figures from the National Statistics Offce cited in "Why teen
pregnancies are on the rise” posted on the Catholic Bishops
Conference of the Philippines website, October 11, 2012
Age of Mother
All Ages % Under 15 15-19
2000 534,322 19.5 616 103,724
2001 533,615 19.8 624 105,006
2002 529,115 19.4 692 101,572
2003 429,583 19.8 661 84,361
2004 559,775 20.5 893 111,935
2005 576,894 21.0 800 120,117
2006 582,763 22.3 753 129,077
2007 625,887 23.4 979 145,250
2008 651,159 24.3 1,091 157,194
2009 650,789 25.5 1,081 164,776
2010 655,980 26.7 1,260 174,085
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¸¸% oI ILs esLImuLed popuIuLIon oI 6.z mIIIIon under
20 years of age, according to the World Health
Organization report, “WHO Country Cooperation
Strategy for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Based on the report, teenage pregnancy in Laos is
more a rural phenomenon than urban, involving
zo.¸% oI gIrIs uged 1¸-1q In ruruI ureus (compured
wILI 8.8% In urbun ureus), wIere LIey Iuce LIe
challenges of unplanned childbirths and restricted
opportunities for better education. Abortion is illegal
in the country.
Dr. Bounthavy Sisouphanthong, Deputy Minister,
Ministry of Planning and Investment in Laos, said,
in his speech in observance of World Population
Day 2012, although the country has made progress
in improving access to family planning services and
contraceptives, “access is still very limited for some
marginalised groups who include those in remote
areas, ethnic groups, young and unmarried women as
well as men.”
Early marriage a driving factor in South Asia.
In South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan and Bangladesh -- early
marriage is a contributing factor to teenage pregnancy,
the Health Science Journal IdenLIhed In ILs zo1o sLudy
“Factors associated with teenage pregnancy in South
Asia: a systematic review.” Early marriage is common
in these countries and women are expected to have a
cIIId soon uILer murrIuge. AImosL 6o% oI 18-yeur-oId
gIrIs In LIe sub-regIon ure murrIed by LIe uge oI 1¸
years, according to the study.
Based on the afore-mentioned UNFPA 2011 State of
the World Population, teenage pregnancy in South
Asia is highest in Bangladesh
(133/1000 live births), followed by
Nepal (106) Bhutan (46) and India
(q¸). ¡n NepuI, ;% oI gIrIs
ure murrIed by uge 1o und qo%
by uge 1¸, bused on LIe reporL
Population Reference Bureau’s
2011 survey “Who Speaks for Me?
Ending Child Marriage,” as cited in
the UNFPA report.
“Socio-economic factors, low
educational attainment, cultural
and family structure were all
consIsLenLIy IdenLIhed us rIsk
factors for teenage pregnancy” in
South Asia, according to the Health
Science Journal review. Majority of
teenage girls are aware of at least
one contraception method but
very few have put it into practice,
resulting in unwanted pregnancies.
Chart from Teenage Pregnancy in the Philippines: Facts and fgures,
trends and issues by Philippines` Population Institute professor Dr. Josefna
Natividad, Sept 14, 2012
Timor Leste
1995-2000 2000-2005
:NKcenSEI8KVUXZ ‡October 15-28, 2012
Socio-economic consequences of teen pregnancy
The Center for Global Development in its May 2012
paper on "Adolescent Fertility in Low- and Middle-Income
Countries: Effects and Solutions" reviews recent research
on socioeconomic consequences of teenage pregnancy
in the developing world and policies to reduce teenage
pregnancy and says teen childbearing is often perceived to
impact girls` socioeconomic status through two
primary ways.
"First, pregnancy might disrupt girls` schooling and limit their
human capital accumulation, which would consequently
lower their later-life job prospects, productivity, and
earnings. Second, depending on the norms of a particular
society, out-of-wedlock childbearing by adolescent girls
could be highly stigmatized and thus lead to social
exclusion, alienation, and a higher likelihood of single
parenthood, limiting girls` access to social capital and family
and community support. ”
The US-based non-proft think tank that focuses on
international development fnds that the children born to
young mothers might also suffer since the young mom
"could transmit her low socioeconomic status to her
children through malnutrition, poor health status, and low
educational attainment.”
Based on the 2007 WHO discussion paper "Adolescent
pregnancy –Unmet needs and undone deeds,” the social
and economic consequences of early pregnancy rest on
the adolescent`s cultural, family and communal setting.
Moreover, WHO says socioeconomic disadvantages can
be both a cause and a consequence of teen pregnancy.
"Since adolescent mothers often come from poor social
environments, socioeconomic problems in adulthood might
refect conditions that are already present before pregnancy
or childbirth.”
Meanwhile, a March 2012 study "Why is the teen birth
rate in the United States so high and why does it matter?”
published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives fnds
teen childbearing as not having much direct economic
consequence on teen mothers, as cited in a May blog
posted in The Economist. The authors, economists
Melissa Schettini Kearney of the University of Maryland
and Phillip B. Levine of Wellesley, fnd that teen moms
end up in similarly economic outcomes as their childless
sisters as well as with those young women who got
pregnant but miscarried.
The study concludes, "[B]eing on a low economic
trajectory in life leads many teenage girls to have children
while they are young and unmarried and that poor
outcomes seen later in life (relative to teens who do not
have children) are simply the continuation of the original
low economic trajectory. That is, teen childbearing is
explained by the low economic trajectory but is not an
additional cause of later diffculties in life. Surprisingly,
teen birth itself does not appear to have much direct
economic consequence."
The study fnds that social and economic problems
contribute to the high teen childbearing rates in the U.S
and suggests that the government address diffcult social
problems particularly the perceived and actual lack of
economic opportunity among those in the lowest
economic status.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) says the U.S. teen birth rate is the
highest in the developed world, with about 400,000 infants
being born to mothers ages 15-19 annually, in a report
published by the United Press International in January.
Based on the August 2012 CDC National vital statistics
report "Births: Final Data for 2010,” the birth rate for
women aged 15-19 in the U.S fell by 10% in 2010, to 34.2
per 1,000, reaching the lowest level reported in the U.S.
in seven decades. The long-term declines in teenage birth
rates have been linked to the strong pregnancy prevention
messages directed to teenagers. Recent data has found
increased use of contraception, such as condoms and
hormonal birth control.
The perils of early pregnancy
47 cenSEI
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Among the adverse consequence of teenage
pregnuncy IdenLIhed In LIe Health Science Journal
review includes: lower access to higher education,
high divorce rates, premature death of women,
population growth, weak and unhealthy children,
and single motherhood.
Health risks for teenage mothers. Regardless
oI LIe dĬerences In drIvIng IucLors beIInd Leenuge
pregnuncIes In dĬerenL counLrIes, eurIy pregnuncy
exposes adolescents to high health risks. In its
recent report “Every Woman’s Right: How family
planning saves children’s lives,” the UK-based
international humanitarian and development agency
Save The Children said globally, complications
In pregnuncy ure LIe Lop kIIIer oI gIrIs uged 1¸ Lo
1q. ¡L noLes LIuL uround ¸o,ooo Leenuge gIrIs und
young women die every year during pregnancy or
childbirth, in many cases because their bodies are
not ready to bear children.
The report, which outlines the importance of
women’s choice about the timing and spacing
of their pregnancies, says the risk of maternal
deuLI Is IIgIesL Ior udoIescenL gIrIs under 1¸ yeurs
old. (P. 7)
¨GIrIs under 18 yeurs oI uge ure more IIkeIy Lo
give birth to premature babies and experience
complications during labour, including heavy
bleeding, infection and eclampsia because they
are not physically ready for childbirth. Their
bodies are not fully developed and their pelvises
ure smuIIer, so LIey ure more prone Lo sŭer
obstructed labour. In the absence of emergency
obstetric care this can be deadly for both mother
and baby.”
Prolonged and obstructed labor can also cause great
damage to an adolescent girl’s body, leading to
obsLeLrIc hsLuIu, according to the report.
Health risks for newborns of teenage
mothers. Teenage pregnancy presents health risks
for the newborns as well. In the zoo8 unuIysIs on
Adolescent Pregnancy, the WHO says adolescent
pregnancy negatively impacts the survival of the
infants of teenage mothers.
CILIng u zoo8 sLudy, WHO noLes LIuL LIe uveruge
ruLe oI newborn deuLI Is ubouL ¸o% IIgIer Ior
adolescent mothers than for mothers in their 20s.
Poor newborn health due to teen pregnancy can also
Iuve ¨InLer-generuLIonuI ĕecLs und uIso Iong Lerm
ĕecLs IeudIng Lo uduILIood dIseuse.¨
Among the conditions which can be associated
with adolescent childbearing and maternal
health problems include obesity, anemia,
malaria, sexually transmitted infections, mental
illness, unsafe abortion and complications,
says WHO.
Recommendations. To prevent early pregnancy,
the WHO recommends the following drivers of
intervention in its 2012 policy paper “Preventing
early pregnancy and poor reproductive outcomes
among adolescent in developing countries: what the
evidence says.”
1. Reduce marriage before age 18. Policy-
makers must put in place and enforce laws
LIuL bun murrIuge beIore 18 yeurs oI uge.
Individuals, families and communities must
increase formal and non-formal educational
opportunities for girls at both primary and
secondary levels.
2. Create understanding and support to
reduce pregnancy before age 20.
Policy-makers must give strong and
vIsIbIe supporL Ior ĕorLs Lo prevenL eurIy
pregnuncy. SpecIhcuIIy, LIey musL ensure
:NKcenSEI8KVUXZ ‡October 15-28, 2012
News & Strategy Alerts
that sexuality education programs are in place.
Curriculum based sexuality education must be
widely implemented.
3. Increase use of contraception by
adolescents at risk of unintended
pregnancy. Policy-makers must intervene
to reform policies to enable all adolescents to
obtain contraception. To increase use, policy-
mukers sIouId consIder reducIng LIe hnuncIuI
cost of contraceptives to adolescents.
4. Reduce coerced sex among adolescents.
Policy-makers must formulate and enforce
laws that prohibit coerced sex and punish
Addressing the growing problem of teenage
pregnancies in the Philippines is a matter that will
requIre u concerLed, coordInuLed ĕorL Irom LIe
dĬerenL secLors oI socIeLy:
· Parents instructing their children on how
to protect themselves from peer pressure and
potential abuse
· Schools educating their students about
the physical, moral, and even the larger social
dimensions of reproduction
· AuLIorILIes ŏerIng supporL Ior young
people in potential abusive situations and
action against established exploitative
· Government policy-makers setting
policies that help both young mothers and
their newborns healthy and viable while
convincing young people at large that teenage
pregnancies have consequences beyond just
young mothers.
Common solvents may
cause birth defects
With workplace
substances linked to
birth defects, there
should be laws to keep
the chemicals away from
pregnant women
Pregnant women frequently exposed to solvents
at work may face higher risk of having babies with
birth defects, according to a French study cited in an
ABS-CBN report.
“Exposure During Pregnancy to Glycol Ethers and
Chlorinated Solvents and the Risk of Congenital
Malformations,” published in the journal
Epidemiology, linked solvent exposure as reported
by employees or cited in job descriptions, to the risk
of major congenital defects, especially oral clefts,
urinary tract and male genital malformations.
SpecIhcuIIy, urIne-breukdown producLs poInLed
to bleach-containing solvents and glycol ethers —
solvents common in paints, cleaning products
and cosmetics — as potential culprits, according to
the report.
A U.S. study published earlier this year also linked
solvents to congenital heart conditions. Based on
quesLIonnuIres, q¸% oI moLIers wIose bubIes Iud
major malformations, reported “regular” exposure to
the chemicals. These women were typically nurses,
chemists, cleaners, hairdressers or beauticians.
Among moLIers wILI normuI bubIes, onIy z8% Iud
regular contact with solvents at work.
The perils of early pregnancy