Sarawak records highest teen pregnancies in Malaysia
“I’m pregnant.” In a traditional family setting, these words are usually followed with joyful tears. But that would not be the case if you were still a teenager in school and unmarried.
Teenagers are often overruled by fear when they find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy because of the social stigma attached with it, particularly when you’re a girl. Sweeping the situation under the rug is not the best idea to overcome it.
Even more so when it was recently revealed that Sarawak holds the highest record of teenage pregnancy in the country, doubled from the national level.
Sarawak State Health Department made a courtesy visit on Oct 18 to Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah to discuss the alarming statistic.
The visit was also to see how the state Health Department could work together with other agencies including the Social Welfare Department, state Education Department, Ministry of Health, religious agencies and NGOs in lowering the rate of teenage pregnancies in the state.
Fatimah hopes that the inter-agencies collaboration will provide a holistic and integrated support system for these teenage mothers.
The visit was led by State Health Department assistant director Dr Jamilah Hasshim.
Principal senior assistant director (Family Health Relations Support) of State Health Department Dr Rodziah Mohamad pointed out that over the past five years, 4 per cent of total pregnancies nationwide are teenage pregnancies.
Last year, Kapit showed the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Sarawak (19.6 per cent), followed by Bintulu at 11.52 per cent, Betong at 10.9 per cent, and Sri Aman at 10.7 per cent.
Rodziah said that at divisional level, last year, Kapit showed highest percentage of 19.6 per cent, followed by Bintulu at 11.52 per cent, Betong at 10.9 per cent, and Sri Aman at 10.7 per cent.
Last year, out of 1,489 births recorded in Kapit, 292 of them were births from teenagers.
In the same year, out of total births of 42,481 recorded in the state, 3,547 of them were teenagers, which is at 8.35 per cent.
As of September this year, out of 31,133 births recorded in the state, teenage births recorded at 2,343 or 7.5 per cent.
At national level, births from teenagers aged 15 to 19 recorded 15,849 in 2004, 17,600 in 2008 and 19,310 in 2012.
As for the state, there is also an increasing trend which showed 3,698 births from teenagers aged 15 to 19 in 2011, 3,980 in 2012, and 4,072 last year.
“We also have a record of a teenage girl as young as 13 years old being pregnant but most of them are 18 to 19 years of age,” Rodziah said.
Dr Dalvinder Singh, the assistant director in the Family Health Development Section of State Health Department stated that the leading factors contributing to the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Sarawak are lack of sex education, broken families, social media influence and peer pressure.
Discounting the social stigma linked to teenage pregnancies, a more important fact most people overlook are the health complications surrounding teenage pregnancy.
According to Jamilah, the secondary sexual characteristics like muscle and bone development of those younger than 15 years old are not complete yet which could complicate pregnancy and delivery. The pelvic bone, for example, has not fully developed at this stage yet which can lead to obstructed labour.
Rodziah said that the state Health Department began a one-stop pregnancy centre early this year.
Located at Klinik Kesihatan Petra Jaya, the centre provides a support system for teenage mothers during pregnancy and after labour. Fatimah explained that the Education Department comes in when these teenage mothers want to go back to school after delivering their babies.
Fatimah also highlighted that they are also planning to work with Ministry of Social Development and Urbanisation through activities and campaigns to prevent the rise in number of teenage pregnancy in this state.
It is normal to hear that for those who are with unwanted pregnancies getting married at young age, but getting into pregnancy-induced marriages is not the best solution.
Fatimah noted that most divorce cases recorded in Sarawak are marriages than last no longer than 5 years and mostly occurred among younger couples.
Do you need help?
Although Jamie Spears, Britney Spears’s younger sister made it look okay to have baby at 16, teenagers who are pregnant may encounter various problems such as rejection from family and friends, juggling between school and pregnancy.
Help is around the corner when it comes to teenage pregnancy.
Here are just few examples of agencies in Sarawak ready to help. Plus, they protect your privacy and maintain confidentiality.
1. Taman Seri Puteri (Telaga Air)
Taman Sri Puteri was established in 2005 and started operating in April 2006 under Social Welfare Department.
Their services include individual counselling, temporary shelter during pregnancies, vocational training, educational and spiritual support.
As long as a teenage pregnancy case is being reported to the department, the officers can obtain a court order to enable the young mums to be placed placed at Taman Seri Puteri without charge.
2. Pro-Life Group (Kuching)
It is a ministry under the Association of Churches in Sarawak and also a NGO dedicating to help mothers in pregnancy crisis.
They also work to educate youths about teenage sexual health.
Since 2001, they started a shelter home for pregnant girls in crisis. It is a free and private accommodation for those who need it.
Although it is founded by the Christians, their services are free to all regardless of race and religion.
Click their website link http://prolifegroupkuching.org/ for more info.
3. Sarawak Women for Women Society, SWWS (Kuching)
SWWS is an NGO dedicated to promote women’s equality and eliminate violence against women.
But it also has One Stop Crisis Centre that works to help survivors of domestic violence and rape.
According to Malaysian law, sex with or without consent of a girl below the age of 16 is statutory rape.
They offer help in terms of providing medical treatment, taking police reports, welfare assistance and counselling services.
For more information, visit them at http://sarswws.org/.
4. Human Life Service, HLS (Miri)
In Miri, there is an NGO called Human Life Service Center (HLS) that has been heavily promoting pro-life education and also serves as a temporary shelter pregnant women.
They protect unwed pregnant mothers regardless of their age, religion or racial backgrounds.
Visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HLSMiri for more information.