Introduction: Different gendered health issues occur all over the globe. For the duration of this course I selected to study Argentina. Whilst researching Argentina I analyzed how gender intersects with cultural models of health across the world. In Argentina as well as other countries that are still developing, the reproductive health of young women is a concept that needs to be dealt with. The health issue that caught my attention most was the overall state of reproductive health of the young women in Argentina due to teen pregnancies. I closely evaluated my health issue with a common social determinant of the low socio-economic status of these women. After carefully reviewing the Exploration on Medical Anthropology by Donald Joralemon in our week one assignments I selected Feminist Theory from one of the five anthropological perspectives to discuss (Joralemon, 1997). Considering that my health issue for Argentina is the overall state of reproductive health of the young women due to teen pregnancies. Feminist Theory may seem like an odd choice when only women can get pregnant in comparison to men, but it’s much more relevant than believed.
First of all, it is important to realize that the reproductive health of women is essential to producing and creating new life and with an unhealthy reproductive health status, it is unsafe for mothers.Across my research on the Argentinean women I have found that many women in Argentina do notview themselves as Americans do,in terms of their rights. In America, there are rights that women are familiar with, especially when it comes to their own reproductive health. However, in Argentina, these rights are obsolete. This plays into many other complex issues but it is not permanent.
Surrounding reproductive health is the idea of pregnancy, and in Argentina, teen pregnancy is a common situation. The lecture on female perspectives was interesting to use as an evaluation tool on an issue that is only affecting the female body. The lectures asks specifically, is someone being treated in a way that creates economic, political, or other social inequalities? There are many different determinants of teenage pregnancy such as monthly income of the family, the age group of the parents, marital status, and whether or not the mother was communicating with parents about reproductive health issues (Ayele B.G. et al. 2018). Social determinants of health refer to not only the social conditions in which surround the population and influence health status, but also the economic conditions. The economic conditions sometimes have the largest effect.
Social determinants of health can be broken down into different factors; those that promote health, and those that can be seen as risk factors to negatively impact one’s health. According to the World Health Organization, many organizations recognize the following as social determinants of health: stress, early life, food, addiction, social support, and unemployment to name a few (Wilkinson, 2003).
Considering that, I have found that a low socio-economic status is considerably the largest social determinant of health among these young women, meaning that it is the most prominent factor leading to not only their lack of education surrounding reproductive health, but also the lack of healthfulness of their reproductive health.
According to a news article written by Maria Eugenia Miranda, 105,000 of the 700,000 annual births in Argentina are by women who are younger than 20 years old, and almost one third of these pregnancies are the second or third baby being welcomed into the family (2018). Women of low education and socio-economic status are most commonly impacted by this issue, however it is seen all around Argentina due to the lack of access to information on the subject, ability to receive contraceptives, and the inefficiency of the hospitals there and the difficulty to access transportation to even get to the hospital.
Not only do teen pregnancies occur due to a lack of education and contraceptives, but they also create more problems once a teen becomes pregnant. Teen pregnancy has been a problem for a long time, and in 1972, J. Menken published an article describing the overall health and social consequences of having a child as a teenager. It was found that the proportion of total births by women ages 15-19 are increasing and so is the number of births out of wedlock.
Some consequences common among pregnant teenagers are maternal mortality, low birth weight of the babies, prolonged labor, and iron deficiency anemia. The lack of prenatal care and the poor diets also play a role (Menken, 1972).
Due to the economic state in Argentina and how it has gotten much worse over the years, a large percentage of the population is unable to afford simple contraception, let alone health insurance. It is clear that the most common population affected by this is women at low socio-economic levels. Once again, it is very common for women in this social class to have little to no education due to that lack of income and personal funding. This overall lack causes a gap of knowledge about their own bodies and reproductive health, a topic that is not discussed much among young Argentinian women to begin with.
This health issue also contributes to young mothers having to leave school due to the pregnancy and take off work. Keeping that in mind, the feminist theoretical perspective asks is there inequality present due to specifically to gender? Absolutely. Overall women have significantly worse outcomes in reproductive health than men and posing the argument that it’s because they give birth and that includes more complications is the definition of a sexist claim. According to the feminist theory you cannot discriminate against a gender regardless of the medical concerns attached to that specific gender (Dominguez, 2009). As said this health issue contributes to young mothers having to leave school due to the pregnancy and take off work. This is dominantly affecting the FEMALE gender. Once the baby is born, it is not uncommon for the mother to not return from school or work because of the overwhelming duties as a mother, often due to lack of assistance. This leads to the family becoming more and more economically unstable, creating an unhealthy environment for the family overall.
In Argentina, abortion is deemed illegal. However, each year hundreds of thousands of women undergo an abortion for several reasons such as not being able to take care of and support the baby and unintentionally getting pregnant due to the lack of contraceptives and not wanting to keep the baby, so unfortunately, this means that within the lower income bracket are more vulnerable women and they do not have the access or money to a private clinic or even hygienic abortion clinics. Although there may be a law to help provide information on reproductive health to these women in Argentina, not all of the resources are there. For example, there is a constant struggle to receive free contraception from public entities such as hospitals. With this struggle and the lack of education surrounding reproductive health for these women categorized in a low socio-economic status, the incidents of unwanted or mistaken pregnancies is rather high (Miranda, 2018).
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), by eliminating the disparities caused by the social determinants of teen pregnancy, the pregnancy and birth rates would “help achieve health equity, improve the life opportunities and health outcomes of young people, and reduce the economic costs of teen childbearing” (CDC, 2018). While it is easy to see what could come from eliminating these disparities, it is not exactly easy to eliminate them without implementing programs and additional resources for these women, which would require funding where there may not be any. Overall, there are not enough public health services to provide for the rate of teens becoming pregnant which ultimately leads to this task being a burden to non-governmental organizations, much of which don’t have the funding in Argentina to provide for educational programs and more contraception.
I furthered my analysis by using gendered health issues from feminist anthropological theoretical perspective. The lecture on feminist anthropological theoretical perspective posed some interesting questions that had me questioning, so how does gender impact the situation? The reason that women do not get more assistance with their reproductive health needs isn’t because they are not men but because men do not need that specific health focus. So according to the feminist theory you must question if people are behaving in a gendered way in a given situation (Gabriel, 2018). The answer is correct. Not only do teen mothers have a difficult struggle but they are also ridiculed and shamed for her behavior but the teen father is not.
Lastly, it is important to not only look at this issue from a health and economic standpoint, but also from a cultural standpoint, and in a country with such strong religious roots, teen pregnancy is extremely taboo. The pressures of the religion from the Roman Catholic church could cause violence or retaliation against young pregnant mothers and lead to mothers feeling unsafe in their own country, risking their own lives to either flee or obtain an illegal abortion.
Conclusion: My health issue presents a strong focus on the overall state of reproductive health of the young women in Argentina due to teen pregnancies. As you can see, teen pregnancy in Argentina may not seem like a big deal in itself as many other countries struggle with it, but due to the fact that Argentina is a developing country, it is most difficult for these young mothers to get back on their feet after pregnancy and remain economically stable. Of the five theoretical models learned in this course I found the feminist perspective to be most critical when investigating my country and my chosen health topic of teen pregnancies. Overall the theoretical perspective of feminist theory is the treatment toward men and women. It is not uncommon for this to be a difficult problem in the developing world however a heavy concern lays on the women within these developing countries and the lack of assistance they have because of their gender. I think that throughout this project it will be clearer and clearer the burden these women carry when becoming pregnant and show the overwhelming assistance the men receive in comparison.
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