BANGKOK – Of the 84,578 girls under age 20 who gave birth last year, 2,559 were between 10 and 14, according to Mahidol University’s Centre for Health Policy and Management.
The provinces with the highest number of new moms age 15-19 were Prachuap Khiri Khan, Tak, Chon Buri, Rayong, Nakhon Nayok and Samut Sakhon, centre director Dr Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn said yesterday at a National Conference on Healthy Sexuality, which addressed ways to prevent or manage teen pregnancies.
Wiwat said premature pregnancy could affect the mother’s physical and mental health and put them at risk of anemia and premature birth or an unsafe abortion.
Their babies could be underweight and develop more slowly than normal, he warned.
Premature pregnancy also often led to divorce and child abandonment, he said.
With access to condoms and morning-after pills still limited in Thailand, students are increasingly having unprotected sex, Wiwat said, citing a survey by the Disease Control Department’s Bureau of Epidemiology.
It found a 44-per-cent increase over the past three years in the number of female students at the “Por Wor Chor” vocational-certificate level who reported having had sex.
The rate of condom use was nearly 70 per cent among male students and 66 among females. The bureau reported an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV, rising to 161 cases per 100,000 population – a 72-per-cent jump from 96 in 2013, Wiwat said.
Representative of the Network for Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Solutions submitted a petition at the conference to the secretary general of the National Health Security Office (NHSO).
Pornpan Thongtanongsak, who runs the online “Love Care Station” advice chatroom, noted that children and youths ages six to 24 had legal access to health and disease-prevention services under the Act for Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem (2016). They can get condoms, “emergency pills” and advice on protection from STDs and premature pregnancy, she said.
But many service units were distributing the materials only for “specially organized projects”.
“Teens must be allowed access to such services and the NHSO must make it possible and easy to do,” Pornpan said. “Condoms and emergency pills should be provided free of charge and distributed through easy-access outlets such as pharmacies, youth clubs, dormitories and school toilets.
“The more we want to prevent premature pregnancy, the easier we should make this. We have to allow access to condoms and emergency pills so those in need can get them in time and conveniently.”
The conference ends tomorrow in Nonthaburi.
By Pungchumpoo Prasert