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Teenage pregnancy still a concern for Jamaica

Published:Thursday | July 11, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter

The National Family Planning Board (NFPB) is cautioning that there is still work to be done as Jamaica battles adolescent pregnancy.

Racquel Reece, NFPB communications officer and World Population Day 2013 committee member, said yesterday that Jamaica has reduced its adolescent birth rate from 4.5 in 1975 to 2.4 in 2008. She, however, noted that 47 per cent of births are still unplanned.

"Plus, the age-specific fertility rate of women who have the least years of education and economic means to care for these children are above that of their more educated and fortunate peers," she said. "Thirty per cent of pregnancies to women pregnant by age 19 was unintended."

The caution comes in light of today being World Population Day, with the focus on adolescent pregnancy. According to the United Nations Population Fund, about 16 million girls under age 18 give birth annually. Another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions.

SITUATION DIFFERS ACROSS COUNTRY

In Jamaica, the NFPB reports that 18 per cent of live births are to adolescents, but this data differs across regions. The birth rate among rural adolescent mothers is 74 per 1,000, which is above the current general rate of 72. For the South East region, it is 60 per 1,000, while the Kingston Metropolitan Area records 51 per 1,000. In other urban areas, it is 69 per 1,000.

Reece said the goal of the NFPB is to reduce the current general rate to 65 per 1,000 by 2015.

The NFPB noted that adolescents are more likely to have low use of antenatal health-care services, low-birth weight, premature babies, and suffer from complications during labour and postpartum, which lead to higher morbidity and mortality for themselves and their children. Plus, children born to teen parents are at risk for educational failure, social instability and emotional disturbances. The NFPB is especially concerned that adolescents who get pregnant are evidently at risk for unwanted sexually transmitted infections like HIV.

"Therefore, it is critical that adolescents too, receive sexual and reproductive health information and be allowed access to services that will enable them to prevent these undesirable outcomes."

Reece reiterated the board's call for various stakeholders including parents and religious leaders to make sexual and reproductive health a part of their conversations.

"This is in a bid that our adolescents can be aware of the potential threat to their development, understand how to deal with them and what preventative methods can be applied."

daviot.kelly@gleanerjm.com