In Summary
  • The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey shows that half of the women in Kenya aged between 20 and 49 had their first sexual intercourse by the time they turned 18.
  • The government has been urged to provide youth-friendly services that will curb teen pregnancies.
  • Access to contraceptives and family planning services is important to curb the rising number of unplanned pregnancies.

The hardest decision that 20-year-old Mercy Muthoni ever had to make was whether to keep her pregnancy after she learnt she had conceived at the age of 17. She was in form three at the time at Akiba Mixed Secondary School in Kangemi, Nairobi.

“It was during the school holidays, during the third term, that I fell pregnant. I was involved with a boy from our school who was a newcomer. But I knew him from home; we lived around the same area”.

Mercy did not suspect anything was amiss when she missed her period in December 2015.

“I had previously experienced painful menses and sometimes I had to visit health centres. I thought my cycle was acting up as usual”.

Schools opened in January 2016 and Mercy and her boyfriend joined Form Four. However, Mercy was lethargic and felt sickly all the time. That is when she suspected she might be pregnant. She confided in her boyfriend who suggested a pregnancy test.

“When the test came back positive, I was filled with a sudden fear. I was still in high school; how was I going to break the news to my mother? What would my friends think? I became so stressed and could not concentrate in school,” Mercy says.

For two weeks she decided to skip school. Her boyfriend also refused to go to school, saying that if she misses school he would also not go. During those two weeks, she lied to her mother that it was her usual period pains.

Mercy Muthoni had her son while still in high school. She does not regret keeping her baby, but wishes she planned for him. PHOTO | COURTESY

Mercy Muthoni had her son while still in high school. She does not regret keeping her baby, but wishes she planned for him. PHOTO | COURTESY

NO LONGER A SECRET

During the second trimester, at the beginning of the second term, Mercy was summoned to the head teacher’s office.

“There were rumours going around the school that I had had an abortion. By this time, I had not even disclosed to anyone apart from my boyfriend that I was pregnant.

“At the head teacher’s office, I was asked about the allegations and I denied them. I was sent home to bring my parent.”

It was at that point that she decided to tell her mother about the pregnancy. Her mother was supportive throughout the pregnancy, but had warned her that raising a child, and especially at her age, was not going to be easy.

When Mercy started showing, she decided to stay at home. The school allowed her to continue with her studies whenever she was comfortable.

She delivered her son in August 2015 and sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams two months later.

“I don’t regret having a baby but I regret the timing and not having planned for it. I am, however, happy that I got the chance to continue with my education”.

Matters of contraception among teenagers strike a sensitive chord among many adults. It is only after the ‘mistake’ has happened that guardians discuss contraceptives.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey shows that half of the women in Kenya aged between 20 and 49 had their first sexual intercourse by the time they turned 18. One in 10 women of the same group had their sexual debut by 15.

Grace Adhiambo was about to join college when she learnt she was pregnant. She did not know how she would break the news to her parents. She felt she had disappointed them.

"It took the intervention of some friends for my parents to allow me back home," Grace says.

She says that if she had more information on where to get contraceptives, she would have been in a better position to protect herself and decide when to have her baby.

Grace married the father of her child and hopes to join college soon. She would like to study front office management.

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