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We thought pills made one ‘cold’ in bed

Health & Science
 “I was so terrified of my mother’s reaction,” she recalls.

The Covid-19 pandemic period recorded many teenage pregnancies countrywide. Unwanted pregnancies lead to teen mums dropping out of school. But for some girls who were put in the family way in Nairobi’s Mukuru slums, the many months students were out of school was a blessing in disguise.

Mary* is a 16-year-old mother of a seven-month-old baby girl. She had to drop out of school after becoming pregnant last year, when schools were closed to tame the spread of Covid-19. But Mary re-joined school this January. She did not miss much.

“People were complaining about the pandemic, but I am grateful that learning was halted. I delivered seven months ago, just a few weeks before they were closed, meaning when they go back I will join them, I haven’t missed much.”

Mary, who is raising her daughter with the help of her single mother, says the 24-year-old father of her child denied responsibilities.

“When I told him I was expectant he said he was not responsible and did not want anything to do with me or the baby. I was devastated. I was so in love with him and he betrayed me,” Mary says.

Just like in most African parent-child relationships, Mary’s mother never had sex talk with her. So she confided in her older sister, aged 19, about her predicament.

“I was so terrified of my mother’s reaction,” she recalls. “But when finally told by my sister, she was receptive. I was so disappointed in myself because I felt like I had failed her. She has been raising us alone and I have added another burden.”

Mary did not know much about birth control and whenever she suggested condom use, her boyfriend would snap and questioned her fidelity. “He also told me not to use other forms of birth control because they are not safe. I wanted to go to the clinic to get more information, but I was scared of finding someone who knows me or my mother, so I just decided not to use anything. Look where it got me,” she says.

Susan* is also 16 and a mother of a three-month-old baby girl. Just like Mary, Susan’s boyfriend was not keen on use of condoms and other forms of birth control. Susan says the little information she got from her peers was not helpful as they too did not know much about birth control. “What we know is that pills and injections could cause infertility, non-stop bleeding and make me ‘cold’ during intercourse, so I suggested a condom which my boyfriend refused asking me whether I was cheating on him or I have STI’s.”

According to the two teenagers, ignorance played a big part in their predicament and society has not made sex talk easier.

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