Today’s post comes to us from Laura Hernandez of GLOBALHealthPR partner in Mexico, PR Partners.
Mexico faces a major social problem due to the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy. According to the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT), 51.9% of sexually active females aged 12 to 19 have been pregnant.
However, it seems society wants to keep its eyes closed, believing youngsters in their early teenage years are not having sex. A relevant study presented earlier this year entitled “Knowledge, attitude and contraceptive practices among Mexican adolescents,” carried out by CELSAM (Latin American Center of Women and Health) along with the pharmaceutical company MSD and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), showed interesting data in this regard. The study consisted of a survey about the knowledge and attitudes towards contraceptive methods, as well as risk factors related to the early start of teenage sexual activity, including children over ten.
Results show that, on average, teenagers start sexual activity at 15 years old. However, 29% of the girls between 7 and 14 years old have already started sexual activity while 38% of the boys aged the same have also taken this step.
On pregnancy, the average age for a teenage pregnancy is around 16 years old, but 23% of girls between 10 and 14 years old have already been pregnant, while 15% of the boys had to face the pregnancy of a partner. These alarming statistics can be explained because more than 80% of teenage couples do not use contraceptive methods during their first sexual encounter. The main reason is because they neither thought having sex nor considered using a method of protection.
In Mexico there is a lack of information about contraceptive methods and how to use them effectively. Almost 25% of teenagers surveyed do not know how to use contraceptive methods, while 35% responded they haven’t received information about contraception. If so, they still have many doubts. As teenagers continue with their active sex lives, 40% do not use contraceptive methods or use them just occasionally. Almost 20% of them didn’t plan to have sexual relations, but did anyway.
Teenage pregnancy increases the probability of dropping out of school and also increases poverty levels, low income jobs and, in most cases, two or three more pregnancies in the following years.
Studies such as the one presented by CELSAM, MSD and UNFPA open our eyes to a social problem that is beginning not at the age of 15, but much earlier. Therefore, sexual education shall not begin when youngsters are already teenagers but at their late childhood, and must continue throughout adolescence.