Two years ago, Annie (not her real name) found out she was pregnant. She was 19. She had not had her period for two months. She used a home pregnancy kit, and the result was positive. Her initial reaction was disbelief, and then the anxiety kicked in. Annie and her boyfriend faced three choices: parenting, adoption or abortion.
'We had no idea what to do. I thought about getting an abortion, and also considered giving birth to the baby,' she said. 'I had to tell my parents everything when they started getting suspicious of my weight gain.' Both sets of parents learned about Annie's situation when she was already six months' pregnant. They had differing views on the best solution for the teens.
The boy's parents wanted them to abort the pregnancy, because they believed the pair would not be able to take care of the baby themselves. But Annie's parents knew it was not an option because an abortion at such a late stage is very dangerous.
The couple broke up soon afterwards.
Annie learned about the Mother's Choice pregnancy support services from a friend, whose friend had gone through the same ordeal.
A social worker reviewed her case and they decided that putting the baby up for adoption would be the best choice. 'It was a difficult decision to make, but I knew it was the best choice for me and my baby. The adoption process is very strict. And I knew I would not be able to support both of us,' Annie said. She moved into the hostel two months later.
'The pregnancy was very difficult. There were lots of changes in my body and I had no idea what I could or couldn't eat. I was constantly tired,' she said. But after moving into the hostel, she felt at home. While social workers taught her tasks, such as cooking, doing housework and making handicrafts, her peers gave her emotional support.
'The other girls told me about their experiences and what to expect. We were all about the same age. They really helped me get through the pregnancy,' said Annie, who gave birth to a baby girl in September 2004.
'She looked so adorable, I didn't want to give her up. But I knew that was what I had to do.' Her advice to all teenagers is: always use protection when you are having sex and do not start a relationship too quickly. 'Learn to say no. I'm very lucky to have support from my family,' she said.
In a survey, conducted in June and last month by Mother's Choice and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 14.8 per cent of 3,299 respondents aged 14 to 21 admitted having sex with their present or former partners, and 11 per cent said they were in romantic relationships. Only 42 per cent of those who had sex said they would take precautions. About 87 per cent of students believed they were incapable of being parents, but half would do so if faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
Annie now hopes to find a job where she can work with children. 'After what happened, I want to be able to help children ... When I see children now, I think about my baby. She would be two years old now.'
The number of teenagers seeking help from support group Mother's Choice rose 11 per cent to 3,100 during 2004-05.
In the same year, Mother's Choice responded to more than 2,500 hotline calls, but only 1,300 of those callers went to the hostel.
In 2004-05, the support group's pregnant girls' services assisted 2,803 clients and counselled another 132 clients.
Of those 132, 44 chose adoption, 46 chose parenting and 15 received post-abortion or miscarriage counselling. The choice among the rest was unknown.
In 2004-05, the hostel cared for 49 residents.
Birthright Services also has hostel services. Tel: 2337 5551, fax: 2338 2462
Family Planning Association Youth Health Care Centre, tel: 2575 4799, website: www.famplan.org.hk