New study shows urgent need to address unintended teen pregnancies

The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Miss Koch Kenya, and the Directorate of Children’s Services, Nairobi County, have today released a comprehensive study on the Lived Experiences of Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents in Korogocho, Nairobi, Kenya. This research highlights the challenges faced by pregnant and parenting adolescents in Korogocho, an informal settlement in Nairobi, and provides recommendations on how to support

The study, conducted using a mixed-methods research approach, delves into the lives of pregnant and parenting adolescents aged 10 to 19 years living in Korogocho. It aimed to understand the driving factors behind early pregnancy, the experiences of young mothers in healthcare facilities, the impact of adolescent childbearing on health and socioeconomic well-being, and how adolescent boys and girls navigate parenthood.

The study recommends the establishment of low-cost daycare centers and safe houses in Korogocho and encourages parents to support their adolescent children with childcare.

The study found that 77% of adolescent pregnancies were unintended. This evidence underscores the urgent need for comprehensive programs and policies aimed at addressing the multiple drivers of adolescent pregnancies, which include poverty, limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, and family-related factors.

The study also highlights the challenges faced by pregnant and parenting adolescents while accessing maternal healthcare services. Fear, shame, and stigma deterred adolescent girls from seeking antenatal care early in their pregnancies. Furthermore, adolescent girls reported mistreatment and abuse during childbirth, pointing to the need to create youth-friendly spaces within healthcare facilities and to train healthcare providers to offer non-judgmental and respectful care to adolescent mothers. Outside the health care system, adolescent mothers are also at risk for gender-based violence with nearly half reporting intimate partner violence. Urgent measures are therefore required to enhance access to support services and establish effective referral pathways for victims of gender-based violence.

Childcare was a major concern, as adolescent mothers struggled to take care of their babies while dealing with the demands of daily life.

Economic opportunities for pregnant and parenting adolescents were found to be limited, putting these girls at risk of cyclical poverty. Further, girls reported significant barriers to school re-entry including a hostile school environment and lack of financial support.

To address these challenges, the study recommends the provision of vocational training opportunities, reducing vocational training fees, and offering financial support to parenting adolescents. It is also important to sensitize teachers and students to prevent discrimination, provide financial support for school-related expenses, and offer breastfeeding breaks for parenting girls in school.

This study underscores the need for immediate action to support pregnant and parenting adolescents in Korogocho and similar communities. The recommendations put forth by the study provide a roadmap for the national and county governments, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to improve the lives of these vulnerable young girls and their children.

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