Sexual behavior changes, Covid concerns drive teen birth rate down to 31%
MANILA — The number of births among adolescent mothers in the Philippines in 2020 went down by 23,855 — a 13% drop which set a 17-year record for the sharpest decrease in births in women under 20 years of age since 2003, according to the Commission on Population and Development.
A substantial part of the decrease occurred in the 15 to 19 years old age bracket, as there were 23,557 mothers in that group, constituting 98.7% of the decline.
On the other hand, among those 10 to 14, or the very young adolescents (VYA), there were 298 fewer births, with the downtrend slightly lower at 12%.
As a consequence, the number of 15 to 19-year old mothers who gave birth daily went down to 425, from the previous year’s 489. In the VYA age group, there was a decline to six (6) per day, from 2019’s seven (7).
The Philippine Statistics Authority also announced that adolescent birth rates were at 31 per 1,000 girls in 2020—significantly lower than 47 per 1,000 as stated in the 2017 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS). The Philippine Development Plan targets a rate of 37 per 1,000, while POPCOM is aiming for a 50% reduction: from the baseline of 57% as stated in the 2013 NDHS, to 28 percent by 2022.
“This is good news for us and our partners who have been advocating for a reduction in teen pregnancies, as well as the health, population and social workers in local government units (LGUs) who stepped up their services in adolescent health to achieve this result,” POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD, MPH declared.
It can be recalled that POPCOM noted an increased concern for teen pregnancies among women in a November 2020 survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations.
“Parents and their adolescent children have internalized an increased awareness about the problem of teen pregnancies with regard to the health and wellbeing of girls having children as minors,” Dr. Perez commented. “The decline noted throughout the year serves as evidence that things are slowly changing for the better for our young women.”
The drastic decline in births, he added, was seen in December 2020, “which also shows the impact of Covid-19, the lockdowns, and schools shifting away from face-to-face delivery of learning,”
Despite the decrease in teen births, POPCOM continues to work to address the cumulative effects of high adolescent birth rates with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as LGUs. It estimates that 160,000 families led by teen mothers will require social protection this year, and the numbers might rise anew once pandemic concerns recede.
In 2018, then-POPCOM chair and socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia labeled teen pregnancy as a “national social emergency.” This was echoed by former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, who declared “one teen pregnancy is one too many,” as she warned also that pregnancies in the 10- to 14-years old age group is a matter of national concern, even if the numbers were still low.
A comprehensive action plan to address adolescent pregnancies was called for by virtue of Executive Order 141 issued in 2021 by President Duterte, which is due for implementation this year. Dr. Perez concluded that “these results will encourage government agencies involved with the plan that change is possible in the coming years, with further expansion of existing programs, and by increasing social protection for those who have started families at a young age. The time to act is now, and not a day later.” PR