THAILAND – Professor Pornsawan Wasant, president of Birth Defects Association (Thailand) revealed that premature births in the country among teenage mothers remains a concern and there is trend that Thailand is now becoming on the front line in Asia to have high premature births by adolescent mothers.
Thai teen and pre-teen mothers are prone to giving premature infants and there is trend now that Thailand is becoming a country with high rates of premature births in Asia.
Professor Wasant said premature babies from teenage mothers face higher risk of disability and difficulties in learning.
Premature babies may suffer brain problem such as down syndrome, cleft lip and cleft palate, and crippled hand and arm which are birth defects and might be caused by genetic disorder and improper nutrition.
She noted that the receiving of folate substance by pregnant mother in the first 28 days after fertilization is very significant.
There is no official statistics of premature birth infants in Thailand yet but the trend is upward, she said.
Major cause of premature births is lack of understanding in prevention before pregnancy and no family planning.
She advised teenage mothers to see doctors constantly for health checkup, while the Public Health Ministry should also encourage the provision of folate to women at reproductive age at secondary education schools which could help to prevent birth defects by 70%.
Last year 54 out of every 100,000 girls under the age of 18 became pregnant – a far higher ratio than the World Health Organisation average of 15 per 100,000, according to Mathurada Suwannapho, director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Rajanagarindra Institute. The figures among even younger girls are equally shocking. Citing a report by the Thai Health Department’s Bureau of Reproductive Health, Mathurada says 3,725 girls under the age of 15 gave birth in 2012.
Teenage pregnancies lead to a comparatively high rate of abortions, stillbirths and deaths of the mothers and newborns. Every year an estimated three million girls aged 15 to 19 undergo unsafe abortions, which contributes to a high rate of maternal deaths as well as lasting health problems for the mothers.
The WHO blames high rates of teen pregnancies on adolescents’ lack of knowledge of how to avoid becoming pregnant and on the unavailability of contraceptives. “However, even where contraceptives are widely available, sexually active adolescents are less likely to use them than adults,” it says. Department of Disease Control deputy director-general Dr Somsak Akksilp notes that failure to use contraceptives (particularly condoms) has also led to high rates of sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, among teenagers in Thailand.
Parents, guardians, teachers and others responsible for the care of youngsters should try to make teens aware that they’re still too young and inexperienced to take on parenting. Youngsters who get pregnant put their academic progress at risk, having to leave school either because they’re expelled or because they must look after their child. Those from poor families are then often stuck in a cycle of poverty, unable to gain the academic qualifications that could lead to a better life. Unplanned pregnancies also lead to abortions or abandonment of newborns, which in turn causes more problems and financial burdens for society.
The problem of accidental pregnancies in Thailand will only be effectively tackled when teens get proper education about sex, the use of contraceptives, and particularly condoms, and basic family planning. Meanwhile, involvement in sports, volunteer work and academic achievement are useful ways to divert energetic teenagers’ thoughts away from sexual pursuits they might regret.