PUTRAJAYA: An average of 18,000 teenagers in Malaysia get pregnant each year and seek medical attention at government health clinics, according to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam.
He said of the total, 25 per cent or about 4,500 cases involved out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
"On average, there are 1,500 cases of teen girls getting pregnant each month or 50 cases a day in the country," he told reporters after the launch of the national-level 'Generasiku Sayang' programme by the Permaisuri of Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah here.
When asked about cases involving girls getting pregnant due to rape, the minister said the number was relatively small.
He said teenage pregnancy or early childbearing would not only affect the mother's health, but was also feared to have greater risks on the baby, including premature death.
The Global School-based Student Health Survey carried out by the ministry in 2012 which involved teenagers from the age of 13 to 17 across the country revealed that 50.4 per cent of the respondents admitted to have had sex for the first time before reaching the age of 14.
"This issue, if not addressed, will increase the risks of teen pregnancy, which may also lead to other problems, such as abandoned babies," the minister said.
Raja Zarith Sofiah said stress made teenage girls, who were pregnant out of wedlock, do something beyond sanity that sometimes end in death, unsafe abortion and baby dumping.
She said out of wedlock pregnancies caused social rejection from families and the community to the extent that the girls did not get the necessary support and assistance.
"Stigma and shame may drive teenage girls who are pregnant out of wedlock to go anywhere to get help or protection, which is temporary," she said.
Raja Zarith Sofiah said the rampant out of wedlock pregnancy problem had resulted in baby dumping.
The problem is due to various factors including child neglect, social problems, influence from social media, urbanisation, poverty, incest and rape.
"In today's world that is full of challenges, parenting knowledge is so important. The emphasis on lifelong sexual and reproductive health education is also very important," she said.
On the 'Generasiku Sayang' programme, Dr Subramaniam said it was aimed at increasing public awareness on the importance of the efforts to prevent teen pregnancy.
Under the programme, the ministry had set up care centres to provide protection to teen girls or women who got pregnant out of wedlock, as well as their babies.
At present, such centres had been set up in all states, except Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Pahang.