No decrease in the number of pregnant teenagers in 5 districts of Karnataka: data
The number of women aged 15 to 19 who are mothers or pregnant remained unchanged in Vijayapura, Kolar, Raichur and Kalaburagi districts during National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) 4 and 5.
The surveys were carried out at intervals of five years. While NFHS-4 was conducted in 2014-15, NFHS-5 took place in 2019-20.
Public health activists say there is an urgent need to reverse this trend and ensure pregnancy is delayed until at least a woman is 19 years old.
Haveri, Davangere, Raichur, Kalaburagi and Gadag districts did not record any increase in contraceptive use in the period between the two surveys.
In both categories, Raichur and Kalaburagi are laggards.
Akhila Vasan, head of the Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali, says the problem is inextricably linked to the age at which girls get married. Unsurprisingly, comparing both surveys, only half of the counties married a decrease in women under the age of 18.
While the union government plans to raise the legal age for marriage to 21, Vasan warned that this alone will not significantly reduce early pregnancy or encourage family planning.
“NFHS-5 data show that 21% of girls marry before age 18. It is not surprising that they become pregnant early. No one uses spacing methods, especially with the first child. They have back-to-back pregnancies and can be permanently sterilized. This is dangerous. It is important that girls stay in school beyond the 10th grade and do not drop out. At that age they get married,” she said.
She continued: “Creating problems around the hijab will also contribute to an increase in school dropouts, early marriages and early births. Ensuring the continuity of education beyond high school is critical to reducing underage marriage and resulting child births.”
Noting that contraceptive use was 54.3% during NFHS-4 but 50.10% during NFHS-5, Raichur District Health Officer Dr.
He explained: “They are afraid of side effects like abdominal pain with oral contraceptives. Newer methods, including injections, have come up. Since most people in rural areas are laborers, the use of IUDs causes discomfort. Within 15 days to a month they come back and ask us to take it out. It can cause irritation.” Public health activist Dr. Sylvia Karpagam said that improved access to education and livelihood for women is known to improve pregnancy outcomes.
“We should increase abortion and contraceptive services. Improving school attendance by improving public transport and school infrastructure such as toilets, etc. will also be beneficial,” she said.