By Joy Mwema

One in every five adolescent girls in Kenya becomes pregnant before adulthood. This is according to recent figures released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

According to the bureau, girls aged 15-19 stand a 21% chance of becoming pregnant. They face health, social, and economic challenges as a result.

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey identified Samburu as having the highest rate of teenage pregnancies at 50%, followed by West Pokot at 36%, Marsabit at 29%, Narok28%, Meru at 24%, Kajiado at 22%, and Kilifi at 13%.

The survey mentioned cultural practices, poor knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, low family economic status, peer pressure, sexual abuse, and early marriage as factors contributing to early motherhood.

Also, parental neglect and broken families contribute to teenage parenthood, the survey said.

60% of teenage mothers do not return to school, according to the KNBS. However, the Ministry of Education has implemented a return-to-school policy that allows girls to resume learning after childbirth.

Pregnant teenagers are at high risk for several health complications before, during, and after childbirth. KNBS data reveals that teenage mothers risk anemia, preterm birth, low birth weight, and maternal mortality. These challenges impact their well-being, health outcomes, and future reproductive choices.

Despite these figures, Fiona Atieno, a psychologist, believes there have been strides in dealing with the issue. She attributes these developments to comprehensive sexual education through adolescent sexual reproductive health advocacy.

According to Atieno, this education empowers many teenagers to care about their sexuality and practice safe sex. She added that there needs to be stiffer penalties for sexual offenders and pedophiles.

She also acknowledged access to affordable and youth-friendly reproductive healthcare services, family planning, prenatal care, and counseling as factors that will better their reproductive health outcomes.