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Kids having kids: Number of Pinay teen mothers doubled in last decade

Is teen pregnancy trending in the Philippines?

According to the recently released 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS4), the number of young mothers in the country has more than doubled over the past decade.

The study showed that 13.6 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 years old—roughly 700,000—have become mothers, up from 6.3 percent in 2002.

At the release of the latest YAFS4 at the University of the Philippines Diliman on Thursday, Maria Paz Marquez of the UP Population Institute said the increase of early pregnancy may be attributed to the increasing prevalence of premarital sex among young adults.

According to the YAFS4, 32 percent of 19.2 million or one in three youth in the Philippines have already engaged in premarital sex. This is an increase compared to the 23.2 percent in 2002, and the 17.8 percent in 1994.

The survey comes out every 10 years. For the latest survey, there were 19,178 respondents, all within the 15 to 24 age range.

The study turned up another troubling statistic: 78 percent of the first instance of premarital sex was unprotected—not only against pregnancy, but also against sexually transmitted infections.

It also said a percentage of the youth have also started to engage in other "risky sexual activities," including casual sex (7.3 percent), extramarital sex (3.1 percent), and what is known among them as "FUBU" or friends with sexual benefits (3.5 percent).

More awareness needed

UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Dean Michael Tan said that reproductive health information should be made more readily available to the public.

For her part, Reena Doña of the United Nations Population Fund stressed that young mothers are at a disadvantage, as having children may hinder them from continuing their schooling and make it harder for them to fulfill their potential.

She said access to correct information may help the young prevent pregnancies or sicknesses.

Meanwhile, in an interview with reporters, Dr. Rosalie Paje of the Department of Health's Family Health Office said the health department will take into account the findings of the recently released study.

She added that an adolescent health program has been set up to tackle issues concerning the youth and young mothers.

Other 'bisyo'

While the number of teenage pregnancies have increased, other non-sexual risk behaviors—including smoking, drinking, drug use, and having suicidal thoughts—have significantly decreased among young people since the last survey, Nimfa Ogena of the UPPI said, citing the YAFS4.

She said only 19.7 percent of the youth are currently smoking, a slight decrease from 20.9 percent in 2002 and 21.6 percent in 1994.

Meanwhile, 36.7 percent of the youth said they were drinking in 2013, compared to 41.4 percent in 2002 and 37.4 in 1994, she added.

The use of illegal drugs has significantly decreased, with only 3.9 percent of the respondents saying they used drugs in 2013 compared to 10.6 percent in 2002 and 5.7 percent in 1994.

The number of youth who ever thought of committing suicide has also decreased to 8.7 percent, from 13.4 percent in 2002.

However, suicide attempts among those who ever thought of committing suicide significantly increased, Ogena added.

Tan said the release of the study is timely as the Supreme Court is set to decide on the petitions against the RH Law. — BM/HS, GMA News