The travails of a teenage mom

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Monday, August 25, 2014


"I WAS crying the whole night when I learned I was pregnant. Worse, my boyfriend broke up with me when I told him. I was still a first year college then. I almost lost my mind thinking about the child I was bearing inside of me. I am a breadwinner and my family depends on me much. I was so depressed that it had come to a point I thought of just ending my life," Sheena, who just turned 18, shared.

Sheena, a single parent/part-time model/breadwinner, is among the thousands of young Filipino mothers.

Her boyfriend for three months got her impregnated when she was only 16. It was her first time to engage in sex, she said.

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The father of her son was seven years older than her. They met in one of the events she attended to in her part-time job.

Sheena stopped studying to earn for her family and son.

"I know those who know me might be laughing at me now. I was so proud of myself then. I was able to raise my family and study at the same time. My mother even expected so much from me," Sheena said.

"But, who cares? Seeing my two-year-old as a happy, smart boy makes me realize that it was never a mistake. The only mistake I did was I fell in love at the wrong time," she said.

Another teenage mom, Cherry, 14, a mother of a two-month-old baby, shares a different story.

Her family had to transfer from Jose Abad Santos, Davao del Sur to the city to escape from the criticisms she gets from their neighbor.

"We kept about my pregnancy. I always stayed at home since we never wanted our neighbors to see my baby bump. Why? Because I belong to a religious family. My father told me I was a shame to our family for being pregnant to an adolescent who is also a student like me. Hence, I was prohibited to go out," Cherry said.

"But, as people say, no secrets will be kept forever. One day, I was alone in our house when someone knocked on our door. I thought it was my mother or elder sister or father. I peeped through the window but I could hardly see the face of the lady. I thought it was my Ate so I opened the door. To my surprise, it was the secretary of our village chapel," she said.

That was the very reason why they had to transfer, she said.

"We cannot stop anybody from talking against us, especially if they expect so much from you and you end up a failure. I guess that's already the trend of our society. People are so judgmental," Cherry said.

Teenage pregnancy continues to be a social problem.

The Commission on Population (PopCom) reported that most of the mothers in the region nowadays are unwed teenagers.

In the country, there were 195,662 live births by teenage mothers and 1,113 of these are delivered by mothers under 15 years old in 2009.

In 2010, the number increased to 207,898 where 1,324 are below 15 years old.

Teenage pregnancy is one of the major factors that contribute to the rapid growth of population in the country.

Since 1995, around 24 million Filipinos were added to the country's population. The Philippine's population grows at 1.9 percent rate annually.

The fast growth of population has several adverse effects on economic development, poverty situation, education, food supply, labor force and environmental development.

Health and population officials urge parents to teach their children the attitude toward sex, marriage and sexuality in order to minimize teenage pregnancy.

In Davao City, teenage pregnancy is increasing, according to the City-wide Investment Plan for Health (CIPH) 2012-2016, which covers the city's comprehensive health situational analysis.

The report stated that teenage pregnancy recorded about 12 percent in 2007, 12.2 percent in 2008, 12.4 in 2009, and to 13.4 percent in 2010.

Teenage pregnancy, in fact, is listed as one of the social determinants for health under human and social development of Davao City.

"Social determinants for health is defined as those critical characteristics of societies and communities in which people live that have an impact on their health (e.g. level of education, water and sanitation, housing employment food production, etc.)," the report read.

It added: "In urban health, the living conditions of people define the set of social determinants important to their health."

"Davao City as one of the pilot cities in the implementation of Urban Health Equity & Response Tool (Heart) has been appreciative of this endeavor of the DOH because through this tool, we were able to understand health equity and how to identify health equity concerns with the use of matrices and monitors of the different health indicators and social determinants," the CIPH read, adding that barangay officials are being guided on what actions and interventions to make based on the identified equity concerns.

The city aims to utilize Urban Heart not only in six barangays of the city, but in all villages.

"We will be expanding its implementation citywide," the CIPH read.
The data manifested physical environment (households served by City Solid Waste Management and incidence of road traffic injuries), human and social development (elementary completion rate and teenage pregnancy), economics (employment and housing ownership), and governance (social participation rate, voters participation rate, and index Crime Rate) as four domain indicators of the social determinants of health in the city during the four-year period (2007-2010).

"It can be observed that most of the indicators cited have not improved. For instance, if we try to look at the incidence of road traffic injuries, employment, teenage pregnancy and households served by city solid waste management as compared to the national targets, we are still below the national standards, though there are indicators that have already achieved the national targets," it said.

According to the Department of Health (DOH) 11, the province of Davao del Sur recorded the highest number of teenage moms in Davao region.

Based on the DOH adolescent health program status and accomplishment report 2011-2013, there are 3,416 or 21 percent of women aged 15 to 19 who delivered with livebirths, abortion and stillbirth in Davao del Sur. The data showed an increase compared to its record in 2012 with 1,851.

Davao City, on the other hand, placed second with 3,009, representing 14 percent, of teenage mothers.

Meanwhile, the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (Yafs) studies that was conducted in 1982, 1994, 2002, and 2013 showed that Davao region ranks fifth nationwide in teenage fertility.

The study undertaken in 2013 by Prof. Grace T. Cruz and associate Prof. Maria Paz N. Marquez of the Demographic Research and Development Foundation of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (DRDF-UPPI) and conducted among 19,187 single and married young people from all sectors in the country, showed that the rate of teenage fertility in Davao, that is, the level of female youths aged 51-19 who have begun childbearing, has more than doubled from 7.9 percent in 2002 to 16.7 percent in 2013.

The results also revealed that the level of females aged 15-19 who are mothers increased by 7.8 percent from the recorded 5.8 percent in 2002.
Most importantly, the issue on teenage pregnancy must not be blamed to the government nor the school.

First and foremost, parents have a strong impact on whether a teenager makes healthy decisions for himself or herself. This goes for making healthy decisions about sex, as well.

They play important role in helping their teens understand his or her feelings, peer pressure, and how to say no to sex.

Like Sheena and Cherry, the two faces of teenage pregnancy, they need guidance, understanding and an open communication with their parents.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 26, 2014.

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