Vientiane – The tradition for women to start a family while still in their teens could hamper government’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2020 and Sustainable Development Goals by 2025, a senior Lao official said.
Deputy Director of the Lao National Centre for Maternal and Child Health, Kobkeo Souphanthong, told the daily this week that even though most women get married and have children later than in the past.
He said traditional beliefs mean that some ethnic women in rural areas of the northern Lao provinces get married at a very young age.
“Getting pregnant at a young age is not good for the health of the mother or her baby.
“This is because girls may not know how to care for themselves during pregnancy,” said Kobkeo.
In addition, girls may not have enough money to buy nutritious food for the proper development of their baby during pregnancy, and the baby could be at risk of being born prematurely.
Most girls who marry young and become pregnant also drop out of school to take care of their baby.
The doctor said another downside of teenage pregnancies is that some young mothers would rather spend time having fun with their friends instead of taking care of their children.
Kobkeo said it was better for girls to wait until they are at least 18 before having a baby so that their body is sufficiently developed, reported the Lao daily on Thursday.
And as an adult, a woman may be better informed about a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy.
To make sure that young women learn about the problems caused by early pregnancy, doctors from the National Center for Maternal and Child Health will continue to provide information to communities that practice traditional beliefs.
“We will explain the negative impacts of getting pregnant at a young age to both women and men in the target group,” said Kobkeo.
He said that women who marry before turning 18 will be advised to use birth control methods until they are older and can make a well-informed decision to have a baby.
All pregnant women should have at least four checkups before delivery at provincial or district hospitals, dispensaries or nearby health service network facilities that can now be found anywhere in the country.
Kobkeo said she wants all involved sectors, including the media and community leaders, to encourage girls to postpone marriage and pregnancy until they are at least 18.