The Interior Ministry of Thailand has set an ambitious target to reduce the rate of premature births by 50% and decrease teenage pregnancies through the promotion of preventive measures at the grassroots level. The current rate of preterm births in the country stands at approximately 12% of all births, which is slightly higher than the global average of 11% and significantly higher than China’s rate of about 7%, according to estimates by the World Health Organization. Interior Minister Suttipong Juljarern referenced the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals in a recent meeting, asserting that the ministry aims to achieve good health and well-being, quality education, and reduced inequality.
Access to healthcare and prenatal care are crucial for pregnant women, as they can help prevent premature birth. “The ministry expects to reduce premature births by 50% during the 2023-24 fiscal year,” declared Minister Juljarern. He emphasized the importance of promoting prenatal care among pregnant women, particularly teenage mothers, to provide proper pregnancy care and minimize risks of pregnancy-related complications. “Youths, university students, and the general public should be aware of the importance of early prenatal care,” he added.
Even in the postnatal period, continuous care for both mothers and newborns is essential. Comprehensive pregnancy care is vital for a child’s development, said Minister Juljarern during a meeting attended by Dr. Tharathip Kolatat, manager of the Thai Maternal and Child Health Network, Ansit Samphantharat, director-general of the Community Development Department, and officials from the Public Health and Education Ministries. Provincial administrations, led by provincial governors, district and village chiefs, and village health volunteers, will assume vital roles in reaching out to people and informing them about prenatal care.
Dr. Tharathip identified five factors contributing to premature births: lack of prenatal care by professionals, inconsistent prenatal tests, unawareness of premature birth signs, inaccessibility to healthcare, and pre-existing health conditions. Many of these factors are influenced by financial limitations, such as the inability to travel or pay for prenatal tests. “The most important solution is to receive prenatal care. Prenatal tests are crucial, as they can detect unusual signs during pregnancy,” he stated.
Although teenage pregnancy has declined in Thailand, it remains a major concern. The birth rate among young women aged 15-19 was 23 per 1,000 live births in 2019, as opposed to 53 per 1,000 in 2015, as per a Unicef survey. In comparison, the global average is around 43 per 1,000 births, according to the WHO. Mr. Suttipong noted that while teenage pregnancy might be stigmatized, pregnant students must be allowed to complete their basic education up to grade 12 if they desire. He further stressed that schools and families should advocate safe sex practices to students and children to prevent unwanted pregnancies.