Kids between 10 and 14 made babies

16 January 2019 - 11:33
By Zoe Mahopo
Pre-teens among 12,000 teen moms.
Image: 123RF/ Suhendri Utet Pre-teens among 12,000 teen moms.

A Gauteng social worker’s worst fears were realised when a 13-year-old girl she was assisting ended up pregnant.

According to latest statistics from the health department in Gauteng, 351 girls between 10 and 14 years delivered babies at hospitals across the province last year.

Tshwane was the hardest hit with 216 babies delivered between April and November.

Statistics also show that 12,866 teenagers between 15 and 19 years gave birth during the same period.

Yesterday Shirley van Rooyen, a social worker at the Christian Social Council in Ebony Park, shared details of one of the cases she was handling. Van Rooyen said her organisation had been assisting a 13-year-old orphan with behavioural problems.

She said the girl, who is now five-months pregnant, had been living with her maternal family at the time.

“But she did not like living with them and complained that they had mistreated her mother when she was still alive,” Van Rooyen said.

She said they discovered that the girl was pregnant when they took her for drug tests and medical check-ups because she was bunking school. “The drug tests revealed that she was smoking dagga. I also took her for a medical check-up and we found out that she was pregnant. She claimed that she was impregnated by a fellow school pupil.”

The teenager has since been moved to Limpopo to live with her paternal family. “This is a very sad case. The girl is young and looks innocent but she acts like she’s older.”

She said the organisation continued to monitor the girl’s progress, adding that she was doing well, noting that social issues, including broken homes and drug addiction among youth, contributed to teenage pregnancy.

Yesterday, health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa visited a school in Tshwane as part of her department’s school health programme meant to tackle issues such as teenage pregnancy.

Department’s spokesperson Lesemang Matuka said the high rate of teenage pregnancy was a big concern.

“This picture is alarming as a number of maternal deaths come from teenagers, as many do not come for pregnancy care early enough; they hide the pregnancy until it’s too late, while others attempt backyard abortions,” said Matuka.

However, Matuka could not say whether or not the rate of teenage pregnancy had increased compared to previous years.

He said the department’s three-year wellness campaign, launched in November, was also geared towards providing health services at schools.

“We have school health teams that visit schools, providing sexual reproductive health services and education. These include educating teenagers on avoiding early sexual encounters so that they may continue with education,” Matuka said, adding that pupils were also educated on methods to prevent pregnancy and HIV if they are sexually active.

According to Dr Muponisi Chabalala, a gynaecologist from the Bitshilo Private Hospital in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, younger mothers can experience severe problems due to an underdeveloped pelvis and might have to undergo a Cesarean operation.

Chabalala said other health complications included postpartum haemorrhage, stunted growth and infertility in the future.