Teenage pregnancy continues to take its toll on the development of third world countries. For many teenagers, pregnancy and childbirth are not planned, hence they become unwanted.
This is where the danger arises. Teenagers who become pregnant resort to unsafe abortions that put their health and lives at risk. It is estimated that about 3.9 million unsafe abortions occur each year among girls aged between 15 and 19 in developing countries.
In Ghana, the rate of adolescent pregnancy is high. Of all births registered in the country in 2014, 30 per cent were by adolescents, who represent a whopping 22 per cent of the total population.
Recent Ghana Health Service (GHS) figures show an upsurge in teenage pregnancies in the country.
Take the Central Region, for instance, 10,301 adolescent pregnancies were recorded in 2020. These data must jolt the country into action as there are many problems associated with pregnancies in that age bracket.
It is known that pregnancies and deliveries of adolescents are accompanied by more risks as compared to mature women. The risks include babies with a low birth weight, and complications during pregnancy and delivery.
These are not exhaustive; many research findings also suggest there is the greater risk of perinatal death, a lower intelligent quotient and academic achievement later in the life of the child, greater risk of socio-emotional problems both for the mother and the child and a greater risk of the child having a fatal accident before age one.
But it is good that we know the problems that give rise to teenage pregnancy to include irresponsible parenting and lack of effective communication between parents and children.
We are also aware of the pressure that is exerted on many girls to marry early and become mothers while they are still children in some communities and, especially, when they are denied the right to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and well-being.
The lack of information about sexual and reproductive health and rights, inadequate access to services tailored to the needs of young people and sexual violence have encouraged the development.The lack of education has also been cited as a very potent cause of the canker. Indeed, girls who have received minimal education are five times more likely to become mothers than those with higher levels of education. Pregnant girls also often drop out of school, limiting opportunities for future employment and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
It is instructive also to know that adolescent pregnancy remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality. Complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 globally. Pregnant girls and adolescents also face other health risks and complications due to their immature bodies, while babies born to younger mothers are also at greater risk of developing diseases.
The Daily Graphic notes that the problem of teenage pregnancy cuts across the country and strongly advocates collaborative efforts of stakeholders to see to the drastic reduction and eventual prevention of such a development challenge.
We think therefore that more than ever, girls must be encouraged to make their own decisions about their reproductive health and future, and have access to appropriate healthcare services and education.
The Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service and allied departments and agencies must lead the charge in raising the awareness of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls, protecting them from abuse and connecting them with education and health services.
The national health system must also be strengthened while comprehensive education on sexuality must be provided especially to our teenagers.
We also urge the authorities, especially, the local government, the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to do more to support pregnant girls and young mothers to continue and complete their education.