A survey conducted in 2013 showed that Kenyan children start to have sex as early as 10 years old, with girls having more of it. In another study targeting high school students and which was published in the Journal of Adolescence, 50 per cent of the males and 11 per cent of the female reported having had sexual intercourse in their lifetime with some reporting multiple sexual partnerships. So, what are the effects of early sex?

Cervical cancer

One of risk factors for developing cervical cancer is engaging in sex before the age of 20. According to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, the risk of cervical cancer was higher in women who had their first intercourse aged 20 compared to 25. The human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, is sexually transmitted and early infection of the HPV virus gives it more time to mature into cancer.

Early pregnancy

Girls who engage in early sex may find themselves becoming parents while still underage. This may see them suffer from iron deficiency anaemia because the baby’s needs will be competing with those of the mother who herself needs it for growth. Also, teenage mums are unlikely to seek prenatal care, placing both the mother’s and baby’s health at risk. Research shows babies born by teenage mothers are at a higher risk of illness and death in the first months of life.

Increased risk of death

The risks of dying due to pregnant-related death for a teenager between the age of 13 to 19 years is double compared to that of an adult aged 20 to 24 years. There is also the risk of abnormal pregnancy, which is associated with a number of complications, that tends to occur at extremes of the reproductive age, that is, below 20 years and above 40 years. Adolescents are also at a higher risk of seeking illegal and unsafe abortion.

Sexually transmitted infections

This cuts across as it doesn’t respect age or gender. Teenagers are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. The situation is dire for adolescent girls engaging in sex with older men as they are usually unable to negotiate for safer sex.

Psychological and emotional consequences

A lot of people who indulge in sex outside marriage have been known to suffer from both psychological and emotional problems. Such people are often plagued with feelings of guilt and sometimes worthlessness. Some may end up making not well-thought decisions like marrying prematurely and for the wrong reasons. Others may end up with serial partners hence exposing themselves to diseases.

Lasting negative effects

Early sexual exploration can have long lasting negative effects especially if one was caught in the act or pressured into it (rape or incest). This may lead to sexual dysfunction later in life and may also make the person unable to positively express themselves sexually as adults.

School dropout/poor performance in class

Needless to say, an adolescent girl who gets pregnant will have to drop out of school for a year or so to tend to the baby. Although the government has a policy allowing teen mums back to class, there are places this is not effected. Either way, one’s education would have been grossly affected and those who return to school find it hard to concentrate, not to mention the stigmatisation from fellow students and society at large.

May lead to delinquency

Teens who start having sex significantly earlier than their peers also show higher rates of delinquency in later years, this is according to a research conducted by the Ohio State University in the US. The study involving more than 7,000 youth found that adolescents who had sex early showed a 20 per cent increase in delinquent acts one year later compared to those whose first sexual experience occurred at the average age for their school.