Data for the study of levels, trends, determinants and consequences of teenage pregnancy are usually derived from varied sources and using a wide range of data collection methods.Studies on the consequences of early childbearing, particularly the risk of adverse outcomes normally use hospital-based records, using either prospective or retrospective designs.This is more often true in urban than in rural areas.
On the one hand, high teenage pregnancy rates may result from the culturally sanctioned practice of early marriage and early marital childbearing, and on the other, from premarital intercourse and unintended pregnancy.
Research evidence points to a shift in behaviors among young people in patterns of sexual activity such that early childbearing is becoming more a consequence of early intercourse.
However, this paper observes a trend of increasing proportions of teenagers who are not poor, who have better education and are residents of urban areas, who have begun childbearing in their teens.
Among the factors that could help explain this trend are the younger age at menarche, premarital sexual activity at a young age, the rise in cohabiting unions in this age group and the possible decrease in the stigma of out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
This paper consists of two parts: the first discusses data sources for the study of teenage pregnancy in general; the second part presents trends in teenage pregnancy in the Philippines, some correlates and an analysis of the drivers for the observed trend using a specific data source.
We will use data from the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) conducted in the Philippines at 5-year intervals since 1968.The optimal ages for successful pregnancy are in the peak reproductive years.At either end of the reproductive spectrum, that is at the youngest (below 20) and the oldest (40 and above) ages, there is a higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.Results from cumulative years of the National Demographic and Health Survey and the latest result of the 2011 Family Health Survey, shows that teenage pregnancy in the Philippines, measured as the proportion of women who have begun childbearing in their teen years, has been steadily rising over a 35-year period.These teenage mothers are predominantly poor, reside in rural areas and have low educational attainment.The main disadvantage is possible misclassification by age if there is reason for the mother to conceal her true age.If such a bias exists, it is likely to be higher in the younger adolescent than the older adolescent years as it may be less socially acceptable to have a birth at age 12 or 13 than at 18 or 19.The NDHS surveys are part of the DHS program of surveys that are highly regarded for methodological soundness and rigor in the design and conduct of data collection.With a common research design and questionnaire adopted throughout all the surveys in the series, NDHS data lends itself well to the analysis of long term trends in teenage pregnancy in the Philippines.For example, completed charts on births occurring in a hospital over a given period can be the source of information for studying pregnancy outcomes, as these will normally contain basic demographic information: the mother’s age, the pregnancy order as predictor variables and factors like maternal complications, placental complications, medications administered in hospital and neonatal outcomes as outcome indicators.The advantage of these data sets is that they provide reliable and valid reports on the pregnancy outcomes under study using medically accepted diagnostic criteria and are not based on the teenage mother’s self-report.