Not the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, but “several mediating factors” such as closures of schools, dysfunctional families and the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education have contributed to teenage pregnancies nowadays.
This is one of the findings of the research study conducted by researchers from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-National Research Council of the Philippines (NCRP), led by Dr. Goria Nelson.
“This is what I want to emphasize, pandemic is not the case of teenage pregnancy but several mediating factors such as school closures. When the schools close, they are most exposed to a smaller community, more men and boys,” she said during the 7th KTOP-COVID (Kapakanan ng Tao sa Oras ng Pandemya – COVID) webinar series: “The Stories of Filipino Pregnant Teenagers and Teenage Mothers During the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis.”
She noted that school closures were recorded in 194 countries in March last year, affecting about 1.6 billion learners or over 90 percent of the world’s school age population.
“Girls more than boys may not be able to return to school,” said Nelson, professor of Sociology at the College of Public Affairs and Development of the University of Philippines (UP) Los Banos.
Citing the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) Study , 14 percent of Flipino girls aged 15 to 19 are either pregnant for the first time or are already mothers. This is more than twice the rate recorded in 2002, she noted.
Nelson, NRCP Regular Member Social Sciences, also mentioned the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) which showed that nine percent of Filipino women aged 15 to 19 have begun childbearing.
“The Philippines has the second highest rate in teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asian region,” she noted.
According to Nelson, the 18 teenagers aged 16 to 20 years old, who were part of the study, “belong to dysfunctional family–meaning from one parent family and some of them do not have access to sexual and reproductive health education and services as well.”
She also noted that based on their study, none were found to have been molested or suffered from domestic violence, as parents, partners, husband, relatives and friends were sources of financial and emotional support.
“Staying in school is the surest way for the youth to avoid getting pregnant. Education keeps the youth well-informed, makes better and informed decisions and provides them with more alternatives or life choices,” Nelson said.
She also recommended that existing programs like the Alternative Learning System, K-12 and Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) be expanded and reviewed to meet the needs of the growing teenage pregnant population.
She also pressed on the need for Congress to enact the Teenage Pregnancy Act and culturally appropriate implementing rules and regulations that would mitigate teenage pregnancy.