Valentina Sim standing in front of a cake, carrying her baby son Princeton

Valentina was expecting her daughter Quinn while looking after her son, Princeton, 1, during her 21st birthday celebration last year. Photo credits: Valentina Sim

At 22, Ms Valentina Sim already has 2 kids. The single mother gave birth to Princeton in 2017 and a year later, Quinn.

“Throughout the whole of my second pregnancy, I hid from my friends,” Ms Sim said, spending most of her time at home instead. She was her son’s primary caretaker, as his father, her then-boyfriend, did not live with them.

Their relationship was rocky – his parents did not want to acknowledge the children, and he was seldom present. Ms Sim had to bear the responsibility of looking after her infant son, even while pregnant.

Ms Sim dropped out of school, when she found out she was expecting, but continued working at a part-time job until she was 3 months pregnant. She experienced such frequent bouts of nausea and fatigue that she was unable to work properly.

However, she did not want to unload the financial burden of her children onto her parents, and decided to raise her children out of her own savings.

She worked odd jobs and helped with her mother’s at-home business for extra income. Now that her children are attending pre-school, she has started looking for more stable work.

After giving birth to Princeston, Ms Sim’s menstrual cycle did not return to normal. She thought it was due to Irregular Postpartum Periods, which could happen to new mothers. It was only after 4 months that she decided to take a pregnancy test.

Sure enough, she was “accidentally” pregnant again.

Ms Sim said Quinn was most likely conceived the first time she had sex after childbirth. She thought it won’t be so easy to “kena” [get it] again, so she didn’t use protection.

Valentina Sim carrying her daughter Quinn, with her son Princeton.

Valentina Sim, 22, carrying her daughter Quinn, 1, (left) with her son Princeton, 2 (right) during Chinese New Year. Photo credits: Valentina Sim

The young mother is not alone. According to a study by Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 34 per cent of young Singaporeans aged 16 to 25 don’t take precautions to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The 2018 study also included 8 questions to test respondent’s knowledge of sexual health and found more than half of them rather clueless. Many have the misconception that condoms could get stuck in the female’s body during intercourse. Some also think emergency contraception methods like taking the morning after pill could terminate pregnancies.

It didn’t help that young people tend to turn to their partners and friends to discuss sexual health matters, instead of consulting their parents or professionals, according to the same study. If it’s the blind leading the blind, a cycle of misinformation may ensue.

Ms Chong Ning Qian, a researcher from AWARE said the youth should look for information that is scientifically accurate and promotes “more than one view of sex”. She recommends websites such as Scarlet Teen and AMAZE, which she thinks is helpful for teenagers as well as their parents.

However, these US-based websites are not designed for Singaporean teens. This prompted 18-year-old Jemima to build her own website, Conversextions, which she plans to complete by the end of the year.

While doing online research about intrauterine device (a T-shaped birth control device that is inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy), Jemima found a lot of information about the brands available in other countries, but not in Singapore. She had to pore over many local forums, blogs, and write to people privately in order to learn from their personal experiences.

This drove her to start compiling information about different birth control methods and the places to get checked for STDs for her website. Her goal is to help her fellow Singaporeans peers to make more informed decisions when it comes to matters concerning their sexual health.

That rings true for Ms Sim as well. While she loves her children, she hopes people would learn from her story and remind themselves how important safe sex is. After all, the effects of unplanned pregnancies and STDs may last a lifetime.