Teen pregnancies on rise during summer break

By Zhang Kun (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-25 06:50

SHANGHAI: More teenage girls have been calling this city's only accidental pregnancy hotline since the summer vacation started.

"We have seen a 12 percent increase in phone calls, and a 23 percent increase in abortion procedures," Dr Zhang Zhengrong from the 411 Hospital told China Daily.

"Many girls use their summer vacations to deal with these problems."

He added that more accidental pregnancies are likely to happen during the summer.

"Some people will come to us right before the new semester starts," Zhang said.

The 411 Hospital set up its accidental pregnancy hotline for teenagers about two years ago. It has since helped more than 20,000 people, nearly half of them students.

"I am a first-year college student. I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend and found myself pregnant. Can I have the operation at a lower price? I have no money," reads a message on the hotline's webpage.

The hospital does offer discounted prices for women with financial difficulties. It has spent 400,000 yuan on such patients, said Zhu Weijie, a spokesperson for the hospital.

"We have also found an increase in the number of pregnancies involving people who meet through the Internet," Zhang said. "Young girls seem to find it more relaxing and more open talking with strangers on the Web. Men often ask to meet a girl in person.

"But after they have sex, and the girl becomes pregnant, the man often disappears. The girl, who once thought she was in love, often finds she barely knew the man."

Only about 20 percent of the girls who have come to the hospital were accompanied by their parents, Zhang said. The others were reluctant to let their parents know about their troubles. Many ended up coming with their friends.

Casual sex has also resulted in an increase in the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases. About half of the patients who have had abortions had gynecologic infections, Zhang said. "These youngsters showed an obvious lack of sex education."

The sex education offered at schools has often been found to be lacking, and few youngsters feel free to discuss sex with their parents.

"I found that a lot of them learned about sex from the Web," Zhang said.

Of the students who have had abortions, 10 percent were from junior middle schools, 20 percent were seniors and 25 percent were college students. Students from professional training schools accounted for a surprising 45 percent.

"Some come in after their eighth week of pregnancy," Zhang said. "Some come in quite late, and have to go through induced labor."

Earlier this month, the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Committee held an education campaign, calling on parents and school administrators to speak with youngsters about sex.

(China Daily 07/25/2007 page5)

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