DISCUSSIONS on teenage pregnancy and reproductive health seem taboo in the Philippines. It is a topic best avoided by many individuals.
However, it is the lack of discussion on this topic that may lead to an estimated 7,000 young women aged 10 to 19 years old who were already recorded to have been pregnant and given birth in Davao Region. The youngest girl in the region recorded to have been pregnant is 10 years old.
However, Commission on Population and Development-Davao Region (PopCom-Davao) Director Bai Agnes Sampulna said this number could increase to around 11,000 because of the strict community quarantine especially during the first and second quarter of the year due to the rising cases of Covid-19.
"We are expecting more because kabalo man ta nga ang uban wala sila manganak sa [hospital and clinical] facility because of Covid. Dili sila kagawas. Ang uban kay dili maadmit [sa mga hospital] tungod naay Covid-19 patients. So expected that by the end of the year, mutaas siya (We are expecting that the figures would further increase since there are young mothers who were not able to give birth in our facilities due to Covid-19 lockdown. They cannot go out. Others are denied admission because there are admitted Covid-19 patients)," Sampulna said.
Meanwhile, in a Philippine News Agency report, PopCom said about 40 to 50 Filipino children aged 10 to 14 years old give birth every week.
According to Plan International, a development and humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls, the lack of information about sexual and reproductive health and rights is among the factors that lead to young girls getting pregnant.
"Bata pa sila, pero they are encouraged na maging sexually active kay kulang ilang information and education (At a young age, they already encounter circumstances that made them sexually active due to misinformation and lack of education)," Sampulna said.
She added that family and social pressure due to social media and sexual violence is also one of the alarming factors for the surge of teen pregnancy. Some of the cases are also due to rape and other sexual assault. Most of the perpetrators, she said, are older men.
In a bid to curb teenage pregnancy in the country, PopCom chief Juan Antonio Perez III iis urging the Senate to pass Senate Bill No. 1334 or the proposed “Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act.”
“This ensures that public and private schools, as avenues for development, will provide young people a supportive environment where they have access to age- and development-appropriate information on responsible parenthood and reproductive health, as stated in Rule 11 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RPRH) Law,” Perez said in a news report by the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
He also called on families to use the time spent at home to “break barriers” and start talking more about reproductive health.
“While the situation imposed by Covid-19 is unique in itself-- forcing family members to stay at home, it should be a welcome opportunity for them to forge stronger bonds, and also break barriers to discuss matters and topics which before presented discomfort and unease, such as sexuality, responsible parenthood, family planning, and the like,” Perez said.
It is through reproductive health education that we can prevent young girls from getting pregnant and help teenagers understand reproductive health. It is through this that they will understand the consequences of unsafe sex, why they should not let anyone touch their private parts, the importance of contraceptives, and sexually transmitted diseases. Educating our teenagers about reproductive health will protect them.