Figures out at the start of this week show that six teenagers give birth each day in Portugal.
According to the National Statistics Institute, that number has been steadily dropping since 1980 when almost 18,000 girls aged between 11 and 19 gave birth in Portugal.
In 2015, the total had dropped to 2,300, which is the lowest on record.
This drop is being explained not only due to greater awareness among teenagers, but also that there are fewer teenagers in the country than there were 30 years ago, while the financial crisis has also resulted in a drop in teenage pregnancies.
According to Duarte Vilar, executive director of the Association for Family Planning, the drop in teenage pregnancies cannot be analysed without taking into account that “Portugal has fewer teenagers today than it had.”
But this is not the only explanation; he adds: “access to information is easier and there is a generalisation of health education in schools”, also noting “years of crisis, and there is more concern about not getting pregnant. Teens want to be better informed.”
Experts also believe schools and general health services are better equipped to help reduce the number of unplanned teenage pregnancies by offering more support and information.
Elsa Mota, a psychologist with the Directorate-General for Health’s Child and Juvenile Division of Reproductive Sexual Health, confirms the decrease is related to “multiple strategies of health and education, such as the availability of contraceptive methods through the National Health Service, access to contraception and to family planning consultations.”
In the 1980s, Portugal was one of the European countries with the highest rates of teenage mothers.
And while those figures are no longer so high, teenage pregnancies continue to be of concern.
Findings from the cross-national Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study show that, generally speaking, fewer 15- year-olds are sexually active nowadays than a few years ago, but of those who are sexually active, fewer use condoms.
Meanwhile, a study by the Psychology Faculty of Coimbra University has found that twenty percent of teenagers have self-harmed in some way at least once in their lives.
“Around 20 percent of [surveyed] teenagers said they have been involved in self-harming behaviour at least once in their lives”, including cutting, burning or scratching themselves in order to hurt their body to “regulate difficult and intense emotions”, researcher Ana Xavier, who carried out the study over four years, told Lusa News Agency.
The project surveyed 2,863 youngsters aged between 12 and 19 in several Coimbra secondary schools, according to a press release from Coimbra University (UC).
The rate found is similar to rates reported in international studies, the researcher said.
According to the study, girls report they are “more involved” in self-harming behaviours, have “higher levels of depressive symptoms” and “tend to be more self-critical and report greater problems with their peer groups.”
By age, 15 and 16-year olds are the most likely to self-harm, Xavier said.
According to the researcher, self-harming behaviours do not suggest “suicidal intentions.”
However, “this is a risk factor,” she noted.