Experiences of teenage mothers in the informal settlements : an analysis of young females' reproductive health challenges, a case study of Siyanda informal settlement.
The reported percentage of births attributable to school going learners has highlighted the concern for adolescents engaging in early and unsafe sexual practices. A review of literature suggests that early sexual initiation and the likelihood of experiencing teenage pregnancy can impede on adolescents' ability to acquire skills, attain high levels of education, and access socioeconomic opportunities. Relatively less attention has been paid to the reproductive patterns and sexual behaviour of adolescents within informal settlements. This research, conducted in Siyanda informal settlement on the outskirts of KwaMashu Township, is designed to explore the sexual patterns and reproductive behaviour of the adolescents there. The study examines differences in sexual behaviour and childbearing experiences among teen mothers, currently pregnant teens; and those that have never experienced pregnancy. The findings suggest that the majority of adolescents residing in informal settlements experiment with and engage in sexual intercourse at ages much earlier than 19. Most teenagers experienced their first sexual intercourse by the second year of high school education. Teen mothers reported higher incidence of multiple sexual partners. Across all adolescents interviewed, the preferred sexual partners were much older males because of level of maturity, financial status; and the ability to negotiate use of contraceptives. Part of the cause of high incidents of teenage pregnancy within this environment was the lack of consistent usage of contraceptives. Many adolescents perceived usage of contraceptives to be impractical prior to conception of first birth. The experience of childbearing was found to have detrimental implications on these young females‟ educational attainment. Many of these adolescent failed to resume school to complete their education due to the lack of emotional and financial support from their partners and family members. Many adolescents highlighted their discontent with the lack of youth integration with the lack of youth integration in community based programmes. Furthermore, communication barriers in nearby health facilities as well as transport restricted their accessibility to obtain counselling with regards to their sexual activities and reproductive patterns. Thus, it is recommended that service delivery should be improved, including providing more health facilities especially the range of methods through which health officials such as nurses, social workers and counsellors which can be made easily accessible to these adolescents on a regular basis.