Lack of education blamed for rising number of adolescent pregnancies

February 24, 2023 - 08:27
T.T.M.C, a 13-year-old girl living in An Bá Commune, Sơn Động District in the northern province of Bắc Giang, gave birth to a baby boy in a bathroom at home less than two weeks ago.
Đỗ Minh Loan, head of the Adolescent Health Department under the Việt Nam National Children's Hospital.— Photo

HÀ NỘI — Though it is a tale as old as time, many adolescents are still getting pregnant and carrying their babies to full term, without families or schools knowing anything about the situation.

T.T.M.C, a 13-year-old girl living in An Bá Commune, Sơn Động District in the northern province of Bắc Giang, gave birth to a baby boy in a bathroom at home less than two weeks ago.

Neither her family nor her school knew she was pregnant.

On Monday, an official of Khả Cửu Commune, Thanh Sơn District, in the northern province of Phú Thọ, confirmed to local media that V. T. H. T, an 11-year-old-girl living in the commune, is raising her six-month-old baby.

T. gave birth in August 2022. Her family and school also did not know anything about her pregnancy.

The stories of C. and T. are not the only ones across the country.

Statistics from the Maternal and Child Health Department under the Ministry of Health showed that around 300,000-400,000 abortions on women aged between 15-19 years old are officially reported each year.

Data from the General Office for Population and Family Planning shows that the abortion rate among adolescents and young adults is increasing and currently accounts for more than 20 per cent of all abortions.

These are only statistics from State-owned hospitals, while data from private hospitals and private clinics are not yet available.


Đỗ Minh Loan, head of the Adolescent Health Department under the Việt Nam National Children's Hospital, said adolescents are classed as those between 10-19 years old.

This is the period when children develop sexual and reproductive functions. During this period, adolescents do not have the skills to control their newly-developed sexual desires, she said.

Furthermore, a lack of education on the menstrual cycle, reproduction and methods of contraception, as well as sexual abuse, premarital sex, and cohabitation before marriage, are believed to be the main causes of the situation, Loan said.

These factors put adolescents at a very high risk of unintended pregnancy.

Phan Chí Thành, Chief of the Training and Directing Centre’s Office under the National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said as social networks develop rapidly, children can easily access sensitive content and be influenced by it.

Trần Thành Nam, Dean of the Faculty of Educational Sciences under the Việt Nam National University, Hà Nội, added that biological development among children is different than in the past.

Many 10-year-old children start puberty and can easily access information related to sex on the internet, he said.

Compounding this, many parents believe their children are too young to be educated on sex at this age.

This creates an invisible distance between parents and children, leaving many without a place to ask questions about the problems they begin to experience, Nam said.

Numerous risks

Loan said that if an adolescent is pregnant, she faces many health and psychological risks.

Specifically, if the adolescent mother carries the baby to full term, the pregnancy will take a toll on her and her child's health. The risk of maternal mortality is higher compared to adult mothers, Loan said.

Adolescent mothers are prone to anaemia, pre-eclampsia, premature delivery, miscarriage, delayed labour and cephalopelvic disproportion, she said.

During delivery, she said that adolescent mothers might have a difficult birth, being forced to intervene with surgery.

Loan said infant mortality rates for adolescent mothers are higher than for mothers who give birth in adulthood.

The children of adolescent mothers often have a low birth weight, morbidity and mortality than children of adult mothers.

During adolescent pregnancy, adolescent mothers also experience disruption in their education, economic difficulties and failure to find a job, leading to many social difficulties affecting their future.

Adolescent mothers are prone to discrimination, stress and psychological crisis.

However, the risk of adolescent abortion is also higher because adolescent mothers often feel shame, resulting in them seeking unsafe abortion services.

Adolescent mothers often do not recognise the signs of pregnancy, meaning they do not seek abortion services until the later stages of pregnancy, often when the foetus is too big, Loan said.

As the adolescent mother's body is not fully developed, abortion procedures often occur more complications than in adults, she said.

The psychological effects of adolescent abortion can be severe and long-lasting.


Loan said the age of adolescence is a period of physical and psychological changes, meaning parents must pay greater attention to them.

Parents are advised to spend a lot of time talking to their children. Parents and schools should coordinate to equip children with knowledge about reproductive health and sex education, helping them to have the right knowledge and awareness to avoid unnecessary mistakes, she said.

Education sectors need to strengthen sex education, pre-marital health care, and reproductive health-related issues, as well as guide adolescents on appropriate contraceptive methods and sexually transmitted diseases, she said.

Synchronous coordination between school-family-society is needed to help children to be fully equipped with knowledge about sex and reproductive health, contributing to improving the quality of the population in the future, she said.

Thành said parents and teachers must be more open in sex education for children; banning children from accessing information about sex and sexuality doesn't work. Teenagers can only make the right decisions when they have enough information from being properly educated.

Sex education expert Bùi Minh Ngọc of the Centre for Children and Development told the Sức khoẻ & Đời sống (Health &Life) online newspaper that when an adolescent becomes pregnant, she still needs protection and supports from her parents or guardians.

It is important to detect pregnancy early, and so parents need to teach adolescents the early signs of pregnancy so they can recognise the changes in the body.

Ngọc said that when the adolescent tells her parents about her pregnancy, her parents need to handle it calmly and rationally.

The choice of giving birth and raising the baby or abortion depends on factors such as family discussions, service availability, and the wishes of the adolescent mother, she said. — VNS