Karnataka is no 2 in teen pregnancies that is
Thursday, Jul 25, 2013, 14:15 IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA
Early marriages, lack of sex education, sexual assault are chief causes for motherhood among underage girls in state
At a time when they should be focusing on education and charting out careers, many young girls in Karnataka are either pregnant or mothers.
Estimates from the Union Health and Family Welfare ministry show the state having second highest percentage of mothers in the 15-19 years bracket after West Bengal.
Healthcare experts attribute lack of sex education, early marriages and sexual assaults as chief causes of teenage pregnancies.
“The human body is still developing and undergoing changes during crucial teenage years. There are also several emotional and personal changes an individual goes through. Pregnancy is definitely not recommended during this period,” says Dr A Jyothika Desai, president, Bangalore society of obstetrics and gynecology.
Then there are early marriages. Experts say despite government regulations, many families marry off their girls before 18.
As per National Family Health Survey estimates, 42% girls in Karnataka are married before reaching the legal threshold of 18.
“Thus education of parents is necessary in this aspect. Teenage marriages often result in teenage pregnancies and since the girl is married, society accepts it as normal, overlooking the health impact it can have on both the child and mother,” says KS Anantha Subba Rao, from the family planning association of India, Bangalore Branch.
Furthermore, experts say lack of sex education and counseling to both teenage boys and girls is negligible, and can play an effective role in arresting pregnancies.
Dr Desai says hardly any education on safe sex, use of condoms and contraceptives, ill-effects of teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS is given to teenagers.
“Some time ago, we conducted sessions with students of about 120 colleges in the city on such aspects. More needs to be done and on a larger scale right from the school level,” she says.
Ill-effects of teenage pregnancies
Becoming a mother during teenage is harmful for the psychological and physiological development of both the child and mother, say experts.
Doctors say mothers below 17 years have a 40% risk of anaemia, HIV, genital infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Then there is increased risk of infant mortality and the mothers going into pre-term labour and delivery,” says Dr Desai. Moreover, often babies born to teenage mothers have a very low birth weight and are born after several medical complications.
Rao says that at a social level, a teenage mother almost always drops out of education and has to deal with various psychological pressures.
“Only education and counseling can weed out this problem,” says Rao.