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Can sex education play a role in reducing teenage pregnancies?

The rise in teenage pregnancies can be attributed to lack of comprehensive sex education. Picture: jcomp/freepik

The rise in teenage pregnancies can be attributed to lack of comprehensive sex education. Picture: jcomp/freepik

Published Aug 5, 2022

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Teenage pregnancy is one of the major public health issues across the whole world.

Determinants of teenage pregnancy in a study employed in developing countries included the following: the lack of knowledge on sexuality education, ineffective utilisation of modern contraceptives, cultural obedience, socio-economic dependence of females on males, and peer influence.

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Teenage pregnancy is strongly linked to detrimental consequences. Additionally, the emotional behaviour of the pregnant adolescent or young mother is particularly impacted, with far-reaching consequences.

They frequently receive little to no support from their families and healthcare providers and are susceptible to stigmatisation in the classroom and community.

A total of 129 223 births were delivered by adolescents in a public health facility in 2019. KwaZulu-Natal represented a higher percentage of births (28,0%), followed by Limpopo (14,0%) and Eastern Cape (13,8%).

Patton et al describe adolescence as a very tricky stage where the majority of people tend to experience or see life in a different light.

It is categorised by emotional, biological, and social development and a time to develop the capabilities needed for a productive, healthy, and satisfying life. Health and wellbeing of adolescents is linked to health outcomes later in adult life.

Early sexual exposure can be considered a contributing factor to adolescent pregnancy, although access to healthcare facilities and the employees at the facilities create barriers to teenage girls making use of the services.

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Furthermore, sexual education in schools and our homes is necessary because it is more abstinent based than comprehensive sexuality education, which includes: delayed sexual initiation, reduced risk-taking, increased use of contraception, and improved attitudes related to sexual and reproductive health is what is needed.

Social workers are needed in schools to raise awareness, develop prevention programmes. Picture: drobotdean/freepik

The World Health Organization says early pregnancy can put both newborns and young mothers at risk. Babies born to mothers under the age of 20 are more likely to be underweight, have pre-term delivery, and have severe neonatal conditions.

Social workers are needed in schools to raise awareness, develop prevention programmes, offer much-needed counselling and psychosocial support to pregnant students and their family systems, and connect with other key stakeholders in healthcare to drive transformational change.

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Comprehensive education goes far beyond information on reproduction and health risks associated with sexuality.

Sexuality education is essential to prevent and combat sexual abuse against children, sexual violence and sexual exploitation.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.

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