Karnataka: Teenage pregnancies dip, but 5.4% already bearing child, finds survey | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: Teenage pregnancies are declining in Karnataka, with 5.4% of women in the 15-19 age group opting to start a family, as per the recently released National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 of 2019-20.
This is a drop from 7.8% in the NFHS-4 of 2015-16 and 17% in the NFHS-3 of 2005-06.
“Among young women of the age 15-19 years in Karnataka, 5% have already begun childbearing — they have had a live birth or are pregnant with their first child,” reads the report.
As per the NHFS-5 report, the proportion of women who have started childbearing rises sharply from 2% at the age of 17 to 6% at 18 years and 17% at 19 years. The proportion of childbearing women is much higher among those who have had no schooling (18%) than those with 12 or more years of schooling (3%).
Data on teenage pregnancies does not present full picture, says doctor
The study captures the presence of teenage pregnancy among religions, castes and tribes. As per the report, the percentage of women in 15-19 years of age who have begun childbearing was highest among Muslims at 6.2%, followed by Hindus at 5.4% and none in Christians. In the same group, 5.7% women from Scheduled Castes had begun childbearing, 5.1% each among scheduled tribes and other backward classes.
Dr Padmini Prasad, president, Bangalore Obstetrics and Gynecologists Association (BSOG), says the data does not present the full picture.
“Child marriages are still a reality. Issues like poverty and discontinued school education have contributed to child marriages, which further results in teenage pregnancies. We don’t know if this data has captured medically terminated teenage pregnancies too,” she said.
She said most teenage pregnancy cases do not come to specialist doctors as they report them to police as medico-legal cases.
“Hence, people go to quacks and these cases aren’t reported. The minute the doctors tell the girl’s caregivers that the case must be reported to police, they don’t return or can we trace them,” said Dr Prasad.
She said a girl below 18 is not ready to give birth to a child as it could lead to anemia, toxemia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) or gestational diabetes.
Anjali Ramanna, chairperson, Child Welfare Committee (for girls), sees no hint of a decline in teenage pregnancies and said underreporting is an issue.
“From October 2017 when I took over as CWC chairperson, I’ve been seeing 4-5 cases a week. We get cases referred from police and hospitals. Some are results of unknown sexual activities or abuse by stepfather,” said Ramanna.
A child rights activist pointed to a rise in child marriages during the pandemic and said this would push up teenage pregnancies.
“Even if the report is to be believed, the pandemic has diluted efforts made by governments and NGOs in preventing child marriages and teenage pregnancies. A post-pandemic survey is needed,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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