Festus Odimegwu, Chairman, National Population Commission is worried by increasing cases of teenage pregnancy especially its prevalence in Northern states
| By Chinwe Okafor | Jul. 29, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
STELLA Agada is well known in the Wanunne community of Benue State where she resides. A 16 year-old student who looks older than her age, resides with her parents. Suddenly, she disappeared from the community only to reappear after about 10 months with a baby strapped on her back. Agada told her story to whoever cared to listen that she had been out of circulation because she was pregnant. “I was deflowered by Basil, a close male friend who used to buy me gifts; he got me pregnant but he didn’t deny impregnating me and has promised to marry me,” she said.
Njideka Ezeani has always been a mummy’s girl, but in spite of her closeness to her mother, she was not given any sex education. She did not really have the opportunity to mix with her peers because she was always indoors after school hours. So, she got her freedom when she gained admission at age 17 to study Microbiology in one of the higher institutions in the South West of Nigeria. “My roommates talked so much about sex before our matriculation that I decided to give it a try and more so, I had a male admirer who was willing to date me. I left school and travelled to the neighbouring town to meet my lover, I gave in to his overtures and he got me pregnant,” she said.
These are just a few out of hundreds of cases of teenage girls in the society today. Many of them are suffering because of the nonchalant attitude of their parents or guidance to sex education and early exposure to pornographic materials among other issues. A nurse in one of the general hospitals in Lagos, who gave her name as Laura, said that lots of incidents of teenage pregnancy abound, which ordinarily could have been averted through sex education. She said lack of sex education had been the major cause of teenage pregnancy. She believes that parents should be free with their children and teach them, sex education because the world is far more advanced now than before. Laura said mothers should stop lying to their children about their private organs by calling them other names than what they are. “Let your children know the real names of their private organs, the purposes they serve and why they should not indulge in sexual activities at their age. Parents should also let their children know that indulging in sexual activities outside marriage has a lot of negative consequences on them” she said.
Poverty, lack of parental guidance, rape, western influence, peer pressure, culture, abuse by relations and lack of self-will are also major causes of teenage pregnancies. Ayoola Ayodele, a practicing gynaecologist in Edo State, said that the health risks associated with children or babies born to teenage mothers are very huge. “The children are more likely to suffer from health, social, and emotional problems, as against children born to older mothers. Teenage mothers are always at an increased risk of complications, such as premature labour and other consequences,” he said.
Ayodele, said another health challenge teenage mothers face is that of vitamin deficiencies because since the teenage mother is still growing, her weight gain during pregnancy is likely to be inadequate; the pelvic bones of a mother do not reach their maximum size until about the age of 18 and as such, the pelvis of the teenage mother may not have grown enough to allow vaginal delivery of a normal-size baby, which in such cases, leads to the higher incidence of Caesarean section in teenage mothers.
The National Population Commission has raised the alarm over increasing incidence of teenage pregnancies in the country, describing the development as worrisome. The commission accused parents of failure to inculcate moral discipline in their female children. Festus Odimegwu, chairman, National Population Commission, said that there is a high rate of child mortality owing to teenage pregnancy, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria.
“Pregnancy is the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide. Statistics have shown that every year 50 per cent of child mortality was among babies born to teenage mothers. Stillbirth and newborn deaths are 50 per cent higher among infants born to adolescent mothers than among those born to mothers aged 20-29 years. About 95 per cent of adolescent pregnancies occur in low and middle income countries worldwide. Teenage girls between the age of 15 to 19 years in these low income and middle-income countries are at risk of being impregnated and abandoned by their teenage partners’ thereby risking death for the teen mother and her child,” he said.
According to the World Health Organization, the world population has rapidly increased due to unwanted and teenage pregnancies, particularly in developing countries. Odimegwu said that the northern part of Nigeria has a higher rate in teenage pregnancy compared to other parts of the country due to their custom, traditional and religious beliefs. Katsina state, with 65 percent, stands out as the state with the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and motherhood.
Parents, guardians and organisations charged with the responsibilities of childcare are advised to take more proactive actions in educating their children of both sexes on teenage pregnancy and its attendant risks as a means of minimising maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria.