Seychelles sees a 35.4% increase in teenagers giving birth in the first 6 months of 2023 My name is Loréa Rassool and I am a midwife who has been working in Seychelles since 2011. Teenage pregnancy has always been a worrying issue in Seychelles but in my |13 September 2023
Seychelles sees a 35.4% increase in teenagers giving birth in the first 6 months of 2023
My name is Loréa Rassool and I am a midwife who has been working in Seychelles since 2011. Teenage pregnancy has always been a worrying issue in Seychelles but in my experience as a midwife, the situation has deteriorated over the years.
Through my work at the hospital, in my private practice and the work I am doing through the Elles Foundation, I have witnessed first-hand, an alarming increase in the numbers of pregnant teenagers.
The statistics for the first half of the year from January 2023 to June 2023 were released by the National Bureau of Statistics on September 1, 2023.
To many, the data may appear quite shocking, but sadly, I was not surprised by the rise in teenage mothers giving birth in Seychelles, given my daily experience.
Let me break it down for you:
From January 2022 to June 2022, 79 teenagers gave birth in Seychelles out of a total of 781 live births. Nine of these teenagers delivered their second child.
From January 2023 to June 2023, out of a total of 771 live births, 107 teenage girls gave birth. 19 of the girls delivered their second child.
The data shows us that there has been an increase of 35.44% in teenage births in the space of a year.
Worryingly, the number of teenage mothers giving birth to their second child (9 from January 2022 to June 2022) has more than doubled (increase of 111%) in the first half of 2023 (19 teenagers).
In 2022, 66 teenagers had an abortion at the Seychelles Hospital out of a total of 422 abortions. 61 of these patients were aged 15-19 while 5 were aged between 10 to 14 years old. This represents a 15.6 % of the total recorded abortions for the year. These figures do not include the number of illegal and backstreet abortions, which we cannot estimate a figure for, but we know is happening in our society and continues to put our Seychellois women at risk.
The World Bank considers that more than half of the abortions that occur among adolescent girls are unsafe, placing both the unborn baby and the mother at risk of serious harm.
A high rate of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies and risky sexual behaviours within our communities also increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases being spread among our adolescents and the rest of the sexually active society in general.
We have recently seen a steady rise in the number of individuals testing positive for syphilis, HIV (rise of 22% of new cases in 2022 compared to 2021 , statistics are from the National Aids Council and the Annual Health Sector performance report 2022) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
While anyone can catch an STD, regardless of race, gender or age, our youth is exposed to STDs through either a lack of knowledge of the risks associated with unprotected sex and a refusal to take precautions when engaging in sexual activity which increases the risks of contamination.
As we all know, teenage mothers have often unplanned pregnancies. I am often told by young mothers that they did not use and still do not use any contraceptive methods as they cannot access effective birth control such as the pill or the implant without the consent of their parent/guardian if they are under 18. Even more worrying, is that many of them admit that they do not use condoms either.
There appear to be a wide range of reasons for not using condoms from feeling embarrassed to obtain them, pressure from partners and a general lack of knowledge around the importance of having protected sex in order to safeguard from other illnesses.
Teenage mothers are exposed to more health complications than adult mothers, such as, low baby birthweight, severe neonatal complications and a higher number of admissions during pregnancy and the postnatal period.
These additional medical interventions for teenage mothers place a toll and additional cost on our health care system, which is already overburdened.
Teenage mothers are less likely to continue with their education, often dropping out of school as early as S3. A lack of education clearly has a negative impact on their future including their earning capacity and the role they can play within society. Studies also tell us that daughters of teenage mothers are at a greater risk of falling pregnant as teenagers, which perpetuates the vicious cycle of social inequality, poverty and increased risk of substance abuse and criminal behaviour for certain groups in society.
On October 26, 2022, all members of the Seychelles National Assembly voted to modify the laws and policies in Seychelles to enable adolescents who were old enough to consent to sexual activity (ie. aged 15 plus) to be able to access contraception without parental consent.
In March 2023, the World Bank Country Director, Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough appeared on the news on SBC following her visit to State House and explained her concerns about the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Seychelles, the age of consent vs the legal right to access to contraception. She said, “It has to be brought together so they (teenagers) can have access (to contraception) at the age of puberty”.
Sadly, almost a year on from the National Assembly vote, nothing appears to have been done to rectify the lacuna between the age of consent and access to contraception for our sexually active teenagers. The gap between the age of consent and the age a young person can legally access contraception on their own has been an issue in Seychelles for many years. It is very disappointing and disheartening that this continues to be a problem in the 21st century. Despite the steady rise in teenage pregnancies over the last years, our teenagers still cannot access contraceptives freely and continue to find themselves in difficult situations.
As an NGO, in my role as a midwife and a mother, I am urging the decision makers to take action and to amend the laws / policies that will enable our youth to protect themselves.
I strongly believe that alongside a change in the law / policy around access to contraception, we also need to educate the next generation and our population on issues surrounding sexual health and reproduction. We need to consider prevention strategies and campaigns coupled with better support.
Our youth is our future. We cannot sit back and allow things to spiral out of control. We all need to take a stand. We all need to act. Together we will make a better tomorrow.
Elles Foundation is a Seychellois based NGO aimed at tackling teenage pregnancy and addressing issues surrounding sexual health and reproduction in Seychelles. If you would like to find out more about the NGO, check out their website www.ellesfoundation.com or their social media @ellesfoundation on Facebook and Instagram.