Generally speaking, being a teenager is one of life’s most challenging periods. Not only are you changing physically and emotionally, you’re also experiencing some intense situations for the first time. Anxiety, heartbreak, low self-esteem, peer pressure: they’re all nasty and, unfortunately, part of the mix.
Sex can complicate things even further, especially when it leads to teen pregnancy. Cipla staff member, Anna Thape, has a deep understanding of this, given that her own life changed drastically after she fell pregnant as a teenager.
Raised by her mother and stepfather, Anna doesn’t remember talking about sex with either parent while growing up. Consequently, she relied on teen instincts when a boy at school came onto her.
“I felt loved,” says Anna, “but also that he’d have left me if I didn’t sleep with him. We ended up going to his place after school one day while his parents weren’t home.” It was Anna’s first time, and it led to her falling pregnant.
The emotional and physical realities
Teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are more likely than other adolescents to be talked into having sex. Many teenage girls also confess to feeling used after sleeping with boys. These points call into question whether these girls were emotionally ready to bring sex into their relationships.
Getting pregnant can make the emotional fallout associated with teen sex even more severe. For her part, Anna remembers not wanting to accept that she had conceived.
“You’re in denial. You don’t know what to do, or who to blame. You need someone to blame; something to hold onto.”
Beyond the potential emotional complications, teen pregnancy exposes the mother and baby to extra health risks. For the infant, there is a greater risk of a low birth weight, and premature birth. The mother is in danger of experiencing the following issues:
- Placenta previa
This involves placenta growing in the lowest part of the womb and covering the opening to the cervix – also known as the birth canal. The primary symptom of placenta previa is sudden bleeding from the vagina, and it can be life threatening.
- Pregnancy-related high blood pressure
Symptoms can include swelling of the hands, face and eyes, sudden weight gain, a headache that won’t go away, as well as trouble breathing.
How many teens are pregnant in SA?
Statistics South Africa’s 2013 General Household Survey found that 5.4% of females aged 14 to 19 were pregnant during the 12 months before the survey. The prevalence increased as the age rose, with 0.7% of 14 year olds being pregnant compared to 12.1% of 19 year olds.
What does it mean to be educated around sex?
Anna is open about the many regrets she’s had since falling pregnant as a teenager. The worst of them is feeling as though she didn’t have the chance to develop properly during an important part of her life. Today, she admits to wishing she could hug every pregnant teen she sees because “(she) knows what they’re going through.”
Her advice for teenage girls is simply to place first things first. “Focus on your education and on growing as a person. There’s time for the rest.”
A comprehensive education around sex could also include the following points:
- The message that sexuality is a natural, normal, healthy part of life
- The message that abstinence is the most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV
- Discussions around a variety of sexuality related topics. The list could include human development, relationships, interpersonal skills, sexual expression, sexual health, and society and culture
- The message that consistent use of modern methods of contraception can greatly reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy
- Accurate medical information about STDs
In the interest of our patients, in accordance with South African law and our commitment to expertise, MediHub cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.