Africa has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world.
How to PREVENT teen pregnancy
Before you become sexually active PLEASE do this:
- Get your 3 HPV immunizations.
- Go on contraception
- Get physical evidence of a negative HIV TEST from your partner.
- Know what Emergency contraception is and where to get it.
- Make sure you have your potential partner’s full name, ID number & home address (FOR CHILD SUPPORT – if you fall pregnant)
Why must you do this first?
HPV or Human Papillomavirus is an STD that causes cervical cancer. There is no antibiotic to cure it because it is a virus. Your body eventually develops its own antibodies against it and heals. But this takes time, and in the meantime, you may create very uncomfortable genital warts. South Africa initiated a national public school-based initiative to provide free HPV vaccination to all Grade 4 girls aged 9 years and over to protect you against HPV. Make sure you get vaccinated before you become sexually active. Once you are sexually active, you cannot get this vaccine. It is too late.
Most teenagers don’t plan to get pregnant, but many do. Teenage pregnancy is pregnancy in a female under the age of 20 (when the pregnancy ends). It is estimated that a third of young girls in South Africa become mothers by the age of 19. If you plan to be sexually active, you need to use contraception. Sex makes babies. Relying on condoms is not safe enough – they can tear or come off. Sometimes you don’t have one. Rather prevent falling pregnant by going on the Pill, the Injection or the Implant. All are freely available at your nearest municipal clinic. The clinic sister will tell you how long you have to wait till you are safe to have sex, after starting contraceptives. It is usually no more than one month.
Your partner must be tested for HIV and show you the negative result. This might sound ridiculous when you are a teen, but in South Africa, the highest infection rate of HIV is among teen girls aged 14- 19 years. Once you start being sexually active, you have to go for an HIV test every 6 months. It is a quick finger prick test at your nearest municipal clinic that you can have done simultaneously as you get your contraceptives.
Emergency contraceptive (EC) pills often referred to as the “morning-after pill” are commonly used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse and can be effective up to 72 hours after intercourse. It helps to prevent 3 out of 4 pregnancies that would have happened. Please note: it is crucial to take EC before 72 hours have passed. Emergency contraception is not the same as abortion – it prevents pregnancy; it doesn’t end a pregnancy.
Of the 989 318 babies born last year in South Africa, 61.7% have no information about their father included on their birth certificate. We don’t precisely know why the women who register these babies don’t record the father’s details. It likely is because the father would not want to be involved in raising the child.
No matter what the father’s excuse is – the South African courts are very serious about child support. Make sure you have his information and that you put his name on the birth certificate. If he denies paternity or refuses to pay child support, the court will sue him for you. The onus rests upon him to prove he is not the father.
Statistics of teen pregnancy in South Africa:
These are statistics of mothers aged 15-19 registering births in South Africa
- 2011 – 68 000
- 2012 – 81 000
- 2013 – 99 000
- 2017 – 119 645 (22 000 were late registrations, meaning they were born the previous year and probably registered by someone who is not the baby’s mother.)
In 2017, more than 3261 girls aged 10-14 years of age registered births in South Africa. On top of that, half of all unwanted pregnancies in South Africa end in abortion. 25% of these are performed in the second trimester of pregnancy
The high rates of teen pregnancies in South Africa are driven by
- poverty and ”Blesser culture.”
- high rates of gender-based violence
- poor access to contraceptives
- lack of pregnancy termination facilities
- poor sex education
- broken families & absent fathers
Risks of teen pregnancy:
- Maternal death – * see note below
- Losing your freedom – taking care of a baby tie you down.
- Developing depression because of an unwanted pregnancy
- Facing poverty – because you drop out of school and never finish your studies
- Never finishing school – drop out to work a low-wage job or face unemployment.
- Health risk for teen mom – includes high blood pressure, anaemia.
- Health risk for baby – includes pre-mature birth, damage from substance-abusing mom.
- Babies have a higher risk of being abused and neglected.
- Teen moms frequently suffer from psychological issues – denial, guilt, narcissism, low self-esteem because of the pregnancy.
* Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, head of health in KwaZulu-Natal, said teen pregnancy accounted for up to 10% of births in South Africa, but 45% of maternal deaths during childbirth were of teenagers.
In 2017, 10.9% of recorded births were to mothers aged 10 to 19.
In the same year, 9.5% of maternal deaths during childbirth were of mothers aged under 20.
Teen pregnancies carry extra health risks to the mother and the baby. It is important not to hide your pregnancy – there are too many health risks involved and too many decisions to be taken. Pregnancies do not just disappear. Face it and ask for help as soon as you know.
You have three options if you are pregnant:
- Have the baby and raise it yourself
- Have the baby adopted
- Get an abortion
Do not try and get rid of pregnancy with people on the street, sangoma’s or friends. There are safe ways to deal with unwanted pregnancies. Abortions can be done up till the 12 weeks of pregnancy free of charge. Read more about abortion in South Africa: Abortion
The father has no right to the baby till it is born, married or unmarried. It is your decision alone how to handle your pregnancy. He is obliged by Law to pay maintenance /child support for the child’s upkeep if you decide to keep the baby. He has an equal right to the baby when it is born unless a court decides otherwise.
Complications of pregnancy to watch out for
To plan or not to plan?
Should we plan for a baby or take it as it comes? A baby needs both mother and father to thrive. Raising a child is a very costly and life long responsibility.
A South African child grant is R 420 per child per month and too little to raise a child. One tin of Baby formula (milk) cost R 350/container and nappies R 350 /100. Plan to have a baby – don’t’ have them.
What young people have said on our Helpline: (12 – 35 years)
- I have to have sex with him, or he moves on to someone else.
- He says he loves me and wants a child. I have been with him for 3 months.
- He says he wants a child, although he is married with three kids.
- Everyone is doing it.
- He hangs around in shebeens and often doesn’t come home. I know he is cheating. I am scared of HIV and pregnancy.
- My mom encouraged it, as long as he buys me gifts. (airtime/ clothes/ groceries / cell phone)
- He insists on not using a condom. He hurts me if I refuse sex.
- I didn’t think I would fall pregnant. I only did ”it” three times.
- He demands sex and nude photos to have something to remember me by (long-distance relationship).
- When I fell pregnant, he told me he already has a wife and children, and he just left.
- When I told him I was pregnant, he blocked me on his phone.
- When I told him I was pregnant, he told me to get an abortion and broke up with me.
- When I told him I was pregnant, he ran away. I never saw him again.
- When I told him I was pregnant, he kicked me in my stomach and told me to get rid of it.
- When our baby was born, he left me and told me he did not have money to give me.
If you’re pregnant, you can help yourself and your baby by:
- Visit your clinic for check-ups every month.
- Taking your prenatal vitamins for your health and to prevent some congenital disabilities: Folic Acid / Multivitamin
- Avoiding smoking, alcohol and drugs
- Using a condom, if you are still having sex, prevents sexually transmitted diseases that could hurt your baby.
- Get tested for HIV and if you test positive, start on ARV’s right away to prevent transmission of the virus to your baby.
Do a quiz to learn about the symptoms of pregnancy: Pregnancy Quiz
Questions we can help with:
• How do I know I am pregnant?
• When can I do a urine test to see if I am pregnant?
• How early will a blood test show I am pregnant?
• Where can I have an abortion legally done?
• What is the cost of legal abortion?
• When is the cut-off time for legal abortions?
• What are the risks of pregnancy for me if I am under 16 years old?
• How do I decide what to do with my pregnancy: abortion, adoption or keep it?
• Where do I go for a paternity test?
• How do I get the father to pay maintenance?
• How do I tell my parents I’m pregnant?
You can chat to an online counsellor on our helpline: LIVE CHAT
It is a text-based chat, and you may remain anonymous.
References & Resources