By The Nation
Dr Kittipong Saejeng, director of the Bureau of Reproductive Health, which comes under the Department of Health, stressed that unplanned and teen pregnancies have been on the rise in Thailand, due to speedy economic, social and technological changes. Girls as young as 10 are now becoming pregnant after engaging in premature sex. The consequential impact on their health and society requires immediate measures to inform the public about more effective birth control and the ramifications of unplanned pregnancies.
A 2017 survey conducted by the Bureau of Reproductive showed that as many as 84,578 girls aged 10 to 19 years had given birth, which meant some 232 births per day. Of these, 10.7 per cent or 9,092 were second-time births. Younger girls, between 10 and 14 years of age, 2,559 became mothers in 2017 or approximately seven per day.
“There are many repercussions to pregnancy among women under the age of 20. These girls suffer possible physical and mental health issues, and problems such as dropping out of school, illegal abortions, spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, divorces and poor family planning are exacerbated. It is high time that all parties step in to curb this phenomenon,” he said.
Under the Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Tackling Act, which came into force in 2016, hospitals and clinics are required to provide free consultation to expecting mothers between the ages of 10 and 20 years. Teenagers also have free access to all available birth-control methods, including a three or five-year contraception implant and intrauterine contraceptive device.
The Department of Health also funds the “Young Love” project, under which medical personnel visit universities and factories to hold knowledge-sharing events.
“Birth control is the responsibility of both men and women. It is not gender-exclusive. Men should wear condoms. This will not only prevent unplanned pregnancies, but will also stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Women should use pills or other contraceptive methods,” he said.
Assoc Professor Dr Manopchai Thamkhantho noted that nearly all teenagers now communicate via online platforms and this may lead them to wrong information and poor advice about sexual health. Families, schools and healthcare practitioners should be the primary source of consultation. Parents in particular should openly talk about sex with their children, to equip them with the correct knowledge.
“Correcting misconceptions and attitudes on sex and birth control should start at home. Families are the key pillars in this regard, while teachers and friends should be supportive and listen. This will be an effective method of improving teenagers’ sexual health,” Manopchai said.
He added that contraceptive pills are a highly effective and convenient birth-control method. Though they are less effective than sterilisation, the pills effectively improve acne and control oily skin caused by a surplus of the male hormone, testosterone. The pill can help ease menstrual pain and mood swings, and also reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Joining the campaign, actress Napapa “Pat” Tantrakul said that amid the burgeoning number of online applications and social-media platforms popular among teenagers, more youth need to be equipped with proper knowledge to reduce unplanned pregnancies. She also wanted to reassure pre-teen parents facing problems that they would have the support to pursue further education for a better future.
Riaz Buksh, general manager for Bayer Thai, added that as a strong supporter of women’s health, Bayer shares the vision and commitment of Thailand and the global Your Life campaign: a world where every pregnancy is wanted.
Statistics already show that 85 out of 213 million pregnancies worldwide in 2012 were unplanned and 33 million pregnancies occurred as a result of contraceptive failure. As such, Bayer recognises that it is imperative to improve awareness of contraception and equip young people worldwide in making informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health.
“To mark World Contraception Day, Bayer and its 15 international partners supporting the Your Life campaign will launch activities under this long-term initiative, to educate teenagers and the general public on the different contraceptives and the need to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Teens will also be directed to the www.your-life.com website, which contains accurate information on contraception. In Thailand, video clips featuring Napapa, Dr Kittipong and Dr Manopchai provide information on correct contraceptive methods and how to prevent unplanned pregnancies. It will be publicised on Facebook page ‘Younglove’,” Buksh said.