Teen pregnancies threaten mother and child: bureau

CHANGING NUMBERS::BHP data show that the percentage of teenage girls who have had experiences related to pregnancy or abortion has decreased

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Jul 14, 2013 - Page 3

In line with the UN Population Fund’s theme for this year’s World Population Day, the Bureau of Health Promotion (BHP) has published data on Taiwanese teenage girls’ sexual experiences and pregnancy rates, adding that adolescent pregnancy may jeopardize the rights, health, education and potential of teenage girls.

According to the UN Population Fund, “about 16 million girls aged between 15 and 19 years old give birth each year, and complications from pregnancy and child birth are the leading cause of death among girls in this age group.”

Adolescent pregnancy is an issue “deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights,” it said.

Earlier last week, the bureau published the results of the Taiwan Youth Health Survey, which found that the percentage of teenagers aged between 15 and 19 who have sexual experience has increased from 8 percent in 1995 to 13.7 percent in 2011.

The percentage of teenagers who took the necessary precautions during their most recent sexual intercourse has risen from 69.5 percent in 2009 to 72.8 percent in 2011, while the percentage of respondents who had had experiences related to pregnancy has decreased from 1.8 percent in 2009 to 0.7 percent in 2011.

The percentage of respondents that had had an abortion decreased to 0.5 percent in 2011, from 1.5 percent in 2009, according to the agency.

The bureau’s figures show that despite an uptick in the percentage of teenagers with sexual experience, the rate of those who had experiences related to pregnancy or abortion have decreased as the awareness of protected sex has been successfully raised, the bureau said.

Although the adolescent fertility rate, or the number of births per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 19, has decreased from 10.89 in 2003 to 4.02 last year in Taiwan — which is lower than the 39 per 1,000 in the US, the 6 per 1,000 in China and Singapore, and the 5 per 1,000 in Japan — bureau Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said efforts to prevent adolescent pregnancy should be continued as it may damage the health of teenage mothers and their babies, and increase the perpetration of poverty among vulnerable groups.