“She is like my source of motivation,” said young mother Shanel Lim of her baby girl. (Photo credits: Shanel Lim)

Shanel Lim was 6 months into her pregnancy before she found out that she’s expecting a baby.   

The 18-year-old Early Childhood Education student had irregular menstrual cycles to begin with. Missing her period for 3 to 4 months was not uncommon. She grew worried only after feeling discomfort in her lower abdomen.

Shanel got a pregnancy kit and the two lines confirmed her pregnancy. Abortion was no longer an option since she’s already in her second trimester. With reassurance from her then boyfriend of 2 years, Shanel gave birth to their precious little girl.

Although the pair have parted ways, Shanel said she’s happy to have kept her baby.

“I’m in Early Childhood Education,” she said. “Imagine looking at children every day (as someone who’s chosen abortion).”

While Shanel is not alone, the number of teenage births in Singapore has steadily declined in the last decade. 

According to data from Ministry of Health, the number of babies born to young girls who are 19 or younger has fallen from 853 in 2005 to 310 in 2017. This is a 63.7 per cent drop.

This is not due to an increase in abortion as the number of abortions performed on girls aged 20 and below has also fallen from 1,279 to 343 in the same period, according to the Ministry of Health.

The decline in teenage births can be explained by younger people becoming “a lot more savvy about using contraception”, according to counsellors cited by The Straits Times.

But an AWARE survey in 2018 found that 60 per cent of its 800 respondents (16 to 25 years old) do not take precautions when having sex.

Shanel’s pregnancy, for example, is a result of unprotected sex.

Shanel is now raising her daughter with her mother’s help. She is back to school to complete her diploma, and also works part-time 5 days a week.

The challenge of juggling school, work and motherhood is obvious, but Shanel is able to find strength in her child. “She is like my source of motivation,” said Shanel of her baby girl.

On why she broke up with her daughter’s father, who’s 3 years her senior, she said he’s not ready for fatherhood yet.

He hasn’t reached out to her in the last 4 months although she allows him to see their daughter.

“I won’t nag at him to come visit his daughter,” she said.

“It’s his responsibility. His loss.”