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    An overview of teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean.

    Jagdeo TP

    In: I International Meeting on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Teenagers and Young Adults. Proceedings. Mexico City, Mexico, Academia Mexicana de Investigacion en Demografia Medica, 1986. 38-45.

    The International Planned Parenthood federation (IPPF) and the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) Ltd. have made concerted efforts to help young people in the Caribbean where women traditionally gave birth at an early age. As a result, data on age-specific fertility rates for teenagers for 1950, 1970, and 1980 showed that for each Caribbean country, adolescent fertility rates were higher 30 years ago than they are today. Since the 1950s adolescent fertility rates declined steadily in most countries except for Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, and St. Lucia where the rates increased somewhat in the 1960s before dipping below the levels observed in 1950. However, adolescent fertility rates still exceed 100/1000. Adolescent fertility rates in 1980 were as high as 120 in Guyana, 125 in Grenada, 133 in Jamaica, 143 in St. Kitts- Nevis, 157 in St. Lucia, and 164 in St. Vincent. Teenagers account for almost 60% of all first births, and half of these are to women 17 or younger. Adolescents are more prone to have prolonged labor, cervical laceration, Cesarean section, and toxemia. Their babies are more likely to be underweight, small-for-date, and premature. Pregnancy is the major reason for dropping out of school. Social and cultural institutions did not support teenage pregnancy; the church preached against it; parents discouraged and published it; and schools expelled pregnant girls. Yet, it occurred because a Caribbean community pattern of conforming to peers was replicated. This is especially true among lower income families where visiting unions and common-law liaisons predominate early and premarital pregnancies are the norm. Studies showed that the children of lower income families are raised within fragile primary social support systems. Misconceptions also proliferate including the idea that an adolescent can be too young to get pregnant, that pregnancy is the result of frequent and regular intercourse and that withdrawal and rhythm are reliable methods of contraception. Fewer than 3 out 10 sexually active adolescents were using a contraceptive in all countries except Trinidad and Tobago and Montserrat. This means that 7 out of every 10 sexually active teenagers are running the risk of having a child too early in their lives.
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