In the Republic of Moldova, over 2,000 teenage girls become pregnant each year. Most of them are unable to continue their studies and their chances of obtaining a job so as to become financially independent are thus slim. Besides, a teenage pregnancy involves major health risks for the mother and her child.
Contacted by IPN for a comment, Galina Leshko, head of the “Neovita” Youth Friendly Health Center, said that until the age of 16, when puberty is not yet over, a pregnancy is an additional burden on the girl’s body, which is a big risk to her life and health and to the life and health of the baby. “In the case of adolescent pregnancies, until the age of 15 inclusive, data show these increase the maternal death rate twice, while the child death rate four times. Besides such drastic moments, these children are often born with a small weight because the body of the young mother does not have sufficient resources to grow them,” explained the specialist.
A very young mother more often shows unpreparedness for pregnancy through late morning sickness, high blood pressure or birth traumas. The younger is the future mother, the more risky is this pregnancy for her and the child. The body of many girls mobilizes very intensely, which is it uses all the resources, and two very intense processes are simultaneously experienced – end of sexual development and pregnancy. Surely, many pregnancies end well and many would say that most of the girls give birth, but the main problem is that all the adaptation forces are used up and the girl does not have reserves. A mature pregnant woman has reserves and a stabilized hormonal basis and can cope with an ordinary infection without serious consequences, while a girl can experience very serious consequences as a result of a urinary or a respiratory infection.
“It’s hard to study at 15-16 with a baby”
Besides the health aspects faced by the young mothers, they also face social integration problems and difficulties in finding a job or returning to studies. “It’s very hard to study at 15-16 with a baby when you enjoy limited support. There are maternal centers and services that are much better than 15-20 years ago, but we have yet a lot to work. The number of teenage pregnancies in our country is two times higher than the average in Western Europe and about three times higher than in developed countries, which have comprehensive sexual education programs,” stated Galina Leshko.
The specialist said that studies show the number of teenage pregnancies in rural areas is higher because the girls do not have proper sexual education and access to correct information. The access to protection remedies is limited due to the fear of lack of confidentiality and of being discussed by the people. This leads to unsafe sexual relations with a risk of pregnancy, sexual infection or late going to a doctor. The sexual and sanitary culture is very low. There are also gender stereotypes that the girl should be a virgin, while the boy should have experience. In most of the cases, this does not stop the girls from having sexual relations, but they are unconfident as they know they will be judged.
Besides sexual education, a special role is played by the general education level. In villages, the girls, when they do not have a job and do not continue their studies, give birth to children. This is how they understand the need to assert themselves and to attract the society’s attention to them. The health system alone will not manage to change the situation. The girls and boys should be educated in a different way.
The boys should be taught to assume responsibility, while the girls should be educated in general. The higher is the level of general culture of girls or women, the greater is their capacity to control and protect their life. When we speak about sexual education, we do not speak about sex only, but also about the personal needs, keeping of body and personality borders and harmonious relations.
“We should yet give birth to children when we are ready from all viewpoints”
Galina Leshko, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist, recommends the girls to talk between them before starting the sexual life and to learn about protection methods and places where they can go: the drugstore, the family doctor or youth- friendly health centers. There are many contraception ways, starting with condoms, pills, intrauterine and injectable devices. The girls should bear in mind that the others love and respect them when they love and respect themselves first.
The specialist reminded of the Youth Klinic, a national network of youth-friendly health centers designed to provide specialized support, to prevent problematic situations and to find concrete solutions to the health problems faced by adolescents and young people in the Republic of Moldova. The 41 centers employ over 250 experienced specialists in health problems faced by the youth, who offer free consultancy, including online, and protection remedies to the people younger than 24 from socially deprived groups. “We should yet give birth to children when we are ready from all viewpoints,” concluded Galina Leshko.
Marina Florea, IPN