- Sabah recorded among the highest rate of births to teen mother at 7.5% (n = 4,124), while Sarawak led the country at 9.2% (n = 3,996)
- Sabah had the highest proportion of women who married at young age
- Teenage pregnancy is linked to poverty, poor academic achievement and lack of parental supervision
The Medical Journal of Malaysia this August reported that teenage pregnancy in Malaysia is highest in Sabah and Sarawak. The researchers from Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital, Kedah published their finding in Malaysia’s medical journal, having reviewed 31 published papers on the subject.
According to the report, more than 19,000 births to teenage mothers were recorded each year between 2009 and 2011. Adolescent fertility rates were recorded at 6 births per 1000 women ages 15-19 years in 2013. Many of these births were from unwed pregnancies, which accounted for 1.99% of total deliveries.
Although seeing a decline in overall rate nationwide, the rate of births to teen mother was higher in Sabah and Sarawak, representing 7.5% (n = 4,124) and 9.2% (n= 3,996) of total births respectively. These figures are higher than the national average of 5%, although lower than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) figure of 11% globally.
Malay was the largest ethnic group with teen births (62.2%, n = 7,863) in Peninsular Malaysia compared to other ethnicities.
Sabah recorded the highest proportion of women who married at young age. According to the research, a survey showed that 7.2% of Sabah women married under the age of 15, and 37.7% married between 15 and 19 years old.
The highest incidence of unwed pregnancy was reported at Sarawak General Hospital in 2011 with 446 cases and Kuala Lumpur General Hospital in 2012 with 377 cases.
Various contributing factors have been identified namely: poverty, lack of parental supervision, poor academic achievement, lack of sexual and reproductive information available, peer influence and pre-marital sex practice.
The researchers outlined the health risks of teenage pregnancy, citing a retrospective study done at a Malaysian university. It was found that nearly a quarter (24.3%) of the teenage mother had pre-term deliveries, less antenatal care visits and significant risk of delivering low-birth-weight babies compared to an adult group.
To find out more, read: A review of the teenage pregnancy in Malaysia