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Teen pregnancy prevention is imperative
Latinamerica Press
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Teen pregnancy puts in evidence an economic, territorial and gender inequality.

For Uruguay’s Vice Minister of Public Health, Cristina Lustemberg, teen pregnancy in the Southern Cone is just “the tip of the iceberg” of other inequalities affecting this South American region.

During the presentation of the Regional Strategic Framework for the Prevention and Reduction of Non-Intentional Teen Pregnancy — commitment subscribed to in Asunción on June 6, by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay —, Lustemberg explained that “teen pregnancy puts in evidence the inequality, not only economic, but also territorial, gender or power, that affect the most vulnerable populations.”

Pregnancy in girls 10 to 14 years old, known as “forced teen pregnancy,” must become a priority in prevention policies, the Vice-Minister stated.

“Pregnancy in these girls has a higher morbidity and mortality rate, and weakens their socio-emotional development, especially when 100 percent of these cases are linked to sexual abuse and exploitation, to gender inequality, and the power to choose a relationship,” she said.

With 21,000 teen pregnancies each year, Brazil is the country in the Southern Cone that records the highest number of these cases, followed by Argentina (3,000), Chile (900), Paraguay (674) and Uruguay (180).

The head of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MSP) of Paraguay, Antonio Barrios, said that 2 of each 3 pregnancies in his country are of adolescents between 15 and 19 years old, while two childbirths are recorded everyday in girls between 10 and 14, whose pregnancies are taken to be the consequence of sexual abuse.

“The high adolescent fertility rates in the Southern Cone countries, particularly in girls of between 10 and 14, compel us to combine and strengthen efforts, working energetically, based on scientific evidence, to reduce and prevent non-intentional teen pregnancy,” said Barrios.

Pregnancy in young and adolescent girls multiply by five the risk of dying during the pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum, insisted Barrios; and in general, this implies dropping out of school and abandoning their life projects. Added to this is the fact that an early pregnancy perpetuates the cycle of poverty and violence that directly affects the young girl or adolescent, and carries with it a devastating effect on their overall health and that of the newborn.

Barrios highlighted that 80 percent of children of adolescent mothers run the risk of being born with problems, or dying, as well as the mother.

Preventing a second early pregnancy
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the adolescent fertility rate of the Southern Cone is 73.2 per 1,000. Two of each three births of adolescent mothers between 15 and 19 years old in Latin America and the Caribbean occur in Southern Cone countries.

Alma Virginia Camacho, regional advisor on Sexual and Reproductive Health of UNFPA, said that the objective of the initiative is to give a comprehensive solution to this problem, and to strengthen public policies and the legal framework directed at preventing and reducing adolescent pregnancy.

“These are figures that pain us and call us to action,” said Camacho. “This strategic framework has been a collective construction process that has taken two years of work. It reflects the political compromise and the leadership of the five Southern Cone countries when dealing with a challenging and complex subject. This includes cost-effective interventions to prevent and reduce adolescent pregnancies coming from an integrated and multi-sectoral approach: access to long term contraceptives for adolescents, a comprehensive education and guarantees provided to affected children and adolescents.”

“I am positive that the implementation of this strategic framework to accelerate the reduction of teen pregnancy will soon bear fruit.  We are in the right track doing what has to be done, moving forward with will, decisiveness, knowledge, and above all with the  commitment of political authorities and society,” she added.

In Paraguay, health authorities announced on June 7 a plan to provide sub-dermal contraceptive implants to adolescent women to prevent a second pregnancy. This contraceptive method, to be implemented since August, “is one more option available among the alternatives that women have access to; counseling and this method, or another one if they choose, will be offered,” explained Jorge Sosa, director of Sexual and Reproductive Health of the MSP.

In the case of adolescents, the implant will be inserted with their consent. “Here we have to see what is best for an adolescent, especially if she is a mother. We all know that we have to give her the opportunity to have access to safe methods that prevent a second obstetric event,” said Sosa. “This pregnancy carries with it a component of difficulties. First, the insertion into the system and more so, if she has already had a baby, a second pregnancy is a very difficult commitment. This is why we have to do everything possible to prevent a second pregnancy.” —Latinamerica Press.

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