By Odoch Allan Richard
Teenage pregnancy is pregnancy in a female under the age of 20 when the pregnancy ends.
In Uganda 24% of teenagers aged 15-19 years old are either pregnant or have had a child already. Uganda has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world. (Statistics: Women age 20-29, 15% were married by age 15, and 49% were married by 18).
Teenage pregnancies in Uganda are associated with many social issues, including early forced marriage, lower educational levels, higher rates of poverty, basic education in the fundamentals of sexual and reproductive health, access to affordable contraceptive options and other poorer life outcomes in children of teenage mothers.
Teenage pregnancy is usually outside of marriage, and carries a social stigma in many communities and cultures. I have attempted to uncover the effects and limit the numbers of teenage pregnancies in Uganda.
In Uganda incidence of premature birth and low birth weight is higher among adolescent mothers. At St.Mary’s Hospital, Lacor, teenage mothers between 15–19 years old are more likely to have anemia, preterm delivery, and low birth weight than mothers between 20–24 years old.
Pregnant teens are less likely to receive prenatal care, often seeking it in the third trimester, one-third of pregnant teens receive insufficient prenatal care and that their children likely suffer from health issues in childhood or be hospitalized than those born to older women.
Pregnant teens are at risk of nutritional deficiencies from poor eating habits common in adolescence, including attempts to lose weight through dieting, skipping meals, food faddism, snacking, and consumption of fast food.
Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy is an even more marked problem among teenagers in Uganda.
Young mothers and their babies are also at greater risk of contracting HIV. The risk of death following pregnancy is twice as great for women between 15 and 19 years than for those between the ages of 20 and 24. Illegal abortion also holds many risks for teenage girls in Uganda.
For mothers in their late teens, age in itself is not a risk factor, and poor outcomes are associated more with socioeconomic factors rather than with biology
Risks for medical complications are greater for girls 14 years of age and younger, as an underdeveloped pelvis can lead to difficulties in childbirth. Obstructed labour is normally dealt with by Caesarean section; however, in some regions where medical services might be unavailable, it leads to eclampsia, obstetric fistula, infant mortality, or maternal death.
Being a young mother in Uganda affect one’s education. Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school.
Young motherhood in Uganda affect employment and social class. Less than one third of teenage mothers receive any form of child support, vastly increasing the likelihood of turning to the government for assistance.
The correlation between earlier childbearing and failure to complete high school reduces career opportunities for many young women.
Teenage women who are pregnant or mothers are seven times more likely to commit suicide than other teenagers.
Teenage motherhood may actually make economic sense for young women with less money, and are substantially less likely to live in poverty and collect less in public assistance than similarly poor women who waited until their 20s to have babies. Women who became mothers in their teens are freed from child-raising duties by their late 20s and early 30s and pursue employment while poorer women who waited to become moms were still stuck at home watching their young children.
Many teen parents do not have the intellectual or emotional maturity that is needed to provide for another life. Often, these pregnancies are hidden for months resulting in a lack of adequate prenatal care and dangerous outcomes for the babies.
Poor academic performance in the children of teenage mothers, many of them being more likely than average to fail to graduate from secondary school, be held back a grade level, or score lower on standardized tests.
Daughters born to adolescent parents are more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
A son born to a young woman in her teens is three times more likely to serve time in prison.
Teen pregnancy and motherhood can influence younger siblings. Teen mothers are less likely to emphasize the importance of education and employment and more likely to accept human sexual behaviour, parenting, and marriage at younger ages.
Most teenage pregnancies are unplanned and teen mothers are looked down in our societies. The only attempt to reverse and limit the increasing numbers of teenage pregnancies in Uganda is illegalising abortion.