Jump of 35 % in teen pregnancies in the Philippines prompts calls to increase sex education and health service

New data released this week has raised concerns across the country which, despite some progress, has one of the highest adolescent birth rates in Asia[1] partly due to social and cultural pressures, poverty, limited sex education, and restricted access to contraceptives.[2]

The legal age of consent in the Philippines was raised from 12 to 16 in 2022 but written parental consent is still needed for children aged 18 and below to access contraceptives.

Childbearing in adolescence often causes a ripple effect, including increased risks for poor health outcomes for both mother and child, and often lower educational attainment and employability.

Mothers under 15 are also twice as likely to die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth as women between the ages of 20 and 30.[3]

In March, a bill that aims to increase access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents, including contraception, is expected to pass the Senate and become law.[4]

Successive governments have tried to tackle the country’s family planning issues and in 2012 the Philippines adopted legislation that requires government hospitals to offer reproductive health services and for government schools to teach sex education in the Catholic-majority country.[5]

Save the Children Philippines’ Technical Adviser for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Shebana Alqaseer said:

“Establishing adolescent-friendly health facilities and services, along with comprehensive sex education in schools and homes, is crucial in addressing early and unintended pregnancies. The consequences of early childbearing can be devastating, affecting not only young mothers but also their children, families, and the broader society. Together, we must create a culture where barriers are addressed, and where all adolescents and their families have access to accurate information and services, empowering them to make informed decisions and enhance their overall well-being.”

Save the Children Philippines is helping parents and caregivers to communicate with adolescent children about sexuality and reproductive health through Healthy, Empowered and Responsible Teens or our “HEART to Heart” programme in all three major islands across the country: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Save the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981 with programmes in humanitarian response, health and nutrition, education, and children’s rights and protection.

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