What are the risk factors for unintended pregnancies?
There are several contributing factors for the high numbers of unplanned pregnancies:
- Research into the Malaysian context reveals a strong association between poverty and adolescent pregnancies. Unsurprisingly, girls from poor families and with little education are most at risk. Most teen mothers end up unemployed or in low paid jobs. There is little data on the fathers responsible for these adolescent pregnancies
Relationship breakdown with parents and family
- Lack of proper parental care and guidance is a major factor. Children raised without guidance and good role models become poor parents themselves
- Parents are often too busy or otherwise not actively involved in their children’s lives. Without nurturing influences neglected children look elsewhere and to others to find a sense of belonging
- Children of harsh, unloving, critical and authoritarian parents tend to become delinquent and to look to others for love and attention
- Father figures or good male role models are seldom around or don’t get involved enough
- In broken homes where children are brought up by a single parent, usually a mother, children look for emotional reassurance, attention, love and security outside the home environment
- Parental influence wanes when children reach adolescence. In secondary school friends and peers are very influential
- Parents can be abusive and violent and/ or on drugs. Children think it is okay to mimic unsociable behaviour
Lack of education and information about reproductive and sexual health
- Many (of the poorer less educated) are ignorant of reproductive and sexual health and thereby suffer the consequences.
- There is no consensus among government ministries if and how sexual and reproductive health should be taught in schools. Notwithstanding the government position that abstinence, i.e. no sexual relations before marriage, is the preferred state of affairs, the consistently high number of unintended pregnancies is worrying.
- 50.4% of teenagers between 13 and 17 years of age admitted to having sex before the age of 14 according to the Ministry of Health’s 2012 Global School-Based Student Health Survey.
- Studies in Kelantan found knowledge about important aspects of sexual and reproductive health to be low. Almost 65% of youth in Kelantan claimed their main source of sexual information was friends. By age 14-15 many had read or watched pornographic material.
- The Health Ministry says some 18,000 teenage girls in Malaysia become pregnant each year on average. 25% of these who are out of wedlock enter the statistics as unmarried mothers. 75% are married teenagers.
- There is a lack of awareness of individual rights and responsibilities in a sexual relationship
- Naïve young people are more likely to engage in unprotected or unsafe sex and risk unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted diseases like STI and HIV / AIDs because they lack knowledge about contraception
- Young people are easily influenced by their peers. Various studies were done in Malaysia replicate findings that show peer influence contributes to the high number of pregnancies among young people
Premarital sexual activity
- A 2010 study in Penang found 63% of teenagers participated in premarital consensual sexual activity. 72% did not use any contraception. In another study in Negri Sembilan involving 4500 secondary school students, 5.4% said they had had sexual intercourse. More male students than female ones reported having sex.
Poor academic performance
- A 2010 study about adolescent pregnancy in Malaysia found the majority of pregnant teenagers only attended school up to secondary level. Less than a quarter (22.5%) only finished primary education and 2.9% had no formal education
- An interesting finding of this study was that teenagers who did not participate in school activities had a significantly greater likelihood of becoming pregnant
(i)A review of teenage pregnancy research in Malaysia – Mohd Azri Mohd Suan MBBS, Adibah Hanim Ismail MMed(Family Medicine), Haliza Ghazali MOG Clinical Research Centre, Sultanah Bahiya Hospital, Jalan Langgar, 05460 Alor Setar, Kedah Med/Malaysia Vol70 No4 August 2015
(ii)UNICEF Malaysia Communications July 2008
(iii)New Sunday Times January 10, 2016 pg12-14 Pregnant with Neglect
(iv)The Star Saturday 24, September 2016 pg 20 Urgent need for sex education