Finding out you are pregnant as a teenager can be a harrowing experience. It is challenging and can be potentially life changing. Not only does it affect your education and financial stability, it is also likely to have serious impact on your health. The health of a baby born to teenage mother is also at risk.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics in 2014, the average global birth rate among 15 to 19 year olds is 49 per 1000 girls. Adolescent pregnancy remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality, and to the cycle of ill-health and poverty.
Here we will look at the risks, and causes of teenage pregnancy. We will also look into precautions and prevention measures.
Ultimate Guide to Teen Pregnancy
What are the risks associated with teen pregnancy?
There are several risks associated with teen pregnancy. These include health concerns, money, mental stability, and even child abuse. Let’s have a look at the concerns related to teenage pregnancy.
There are multiple health risks associated with teen pregnancy. The risks are for both the mother and her child. Teen mothers are at risk of anemia and post partum depression. The babies are likely to be born premature and suffer from low birth weight.
Teen mothers are likely to give birth to babies with low birth weights. Underweight babies are at a higher risk of health problems related to brain, heart, and lungs. Though some babies born with low birth weight grow up to be healthy, it is still a serious concern. In fact, it is one of the biggest concerns in teen pregnancies.
Teen mothers are more likely to suffer from anemia. They can also develop abnormally low levels of red blood cells during pregnancy. Anemia during pregnancy can cause severe problems for a teen mother. These can include increased risk of premature birth, and difficulties during labor and delivery. Severe cases of iron deficiency in the teen mother can even result in birth defects of the baby.
Teen mothers are seen too be at a greater of developing postpartum depression. They are twice as likely to have postpartum depression compared to adult mothers. Postpartum depression can be defined as a mood related disorder in new mothers. It can start anytime in the fist year after childbirth.
It can manifest itself in several forms such as anxiety, difficulty in sleeping, and extreme sadness. In severe cases it may even lead to self harm or harm done to the baby.
Research and surveys have shown that fewer than half of the teenage mothers go on to graduate high school. Even lesser is the number of teen moms that go on to complete college education. Even though many do intend to complete their education, the realities of parenting makes them sacrifice education.
Less than 2 percent of mothers who give birth before age 18 obtain college degrees by age 30. These choices even impact their children. Children born to teen parents are twice as likely not to graduate high school.
Most teens are themselves unaware of the responsibilities of life. They are still themselves children in their own rights with many needs of their own. They are unaware of the idea of putting another person’s needs before their own.
Babies are very high maintenance and need round-the-clock attention. They need to be fed and changed every couple of hours which can be a stressful situation even for an adult mother. As a result teen moms are likely to sleep much lesser than what they are used to. It can leave them feeling exhausted.
The constant demands of a baby can be frustrating for an adult, so it is understandable that it is all the more challenging for a teen mom. This frustration gives rise to a greater rate of child abuse in teen mothers than older mothers.
Having a baby is a good deal of stress on any parent financially. This becomes even more of burden for teen mothers who find it difficult to get proper jobs due to their incomplete education.
Moreover, studies have shown that almost 90% of teen parents do not marry each other. This leaves the teenage mother having to make the financial ends meet alone.
Regardless of whether the father provides financial support, two-thirds of families with a young unmarried mother are poor. Over 75% of all unmarried teen mothers in the United States go on welfare within 5 years of the birth of their first child.
What maybe the causes leading to teen pregnancy?
There are many reasons that lead to teen pregnancy. Contrary to popular belief, it is not only unprotected sexual intercourse that can cause teenage girls to get pregnant. Sometimes even after the use of protection there maybe an unintended teen pregnancy on the cards.
Here are some of the most notable reasons for pregnancy in teens.
Your teens are a time that is crucial. Teens are likely to feel a lot of peer pressure in different areas of their lives. Trying to fit in with peers can influence many of the decisions that are taken at this time.
One of the most important decision that is often affected by peer pressure is the decision to have sex. This happens even if the teens are not fully able to comprehend the consequences associated with their actions.
Due to the pressure to act cool and sophisticated many teens have sexual intercourse without properly being aware of the implications. Unaware of the proper methods of protection and contraception among majority of teens results in unplanned teen pregnancies across the world.
Absence of parental guidance
Studies have shown that teenage girls are more likely to get pregnant when they do not have a parent or parental figure to guide them at home. It may also happen in case they have limited guidance from their parents.
Incase both parents lead busy lives that does not allow them to give proper counselling to their wards, they are unable to guide their children towards taking healthy and wise sexual decisions.
In the absence of parental guidance or discouragement of open discussion by parents on sex related topics, teenagers are found to turn to their friends. The friends are likely to be as little informed as they themselves. Therefore, the advise given by them are also potentially misinformed and flawed. Relying on such ignorant guidance is also a cause for teen pregnancies.
Lack of Knowledge
Knowledge of sex and sex education may not be imparted in many countries and places. This results in teens being misinformed and ignorant of the complete physical and mental implications of having sex.
Sexually uneducated teens are more likely to encounter an unintended pregnancy. These teens base their knowledge and understanding from movies, sitcoms and their equally uninformed friends. This leaves them with little real knowledge of the real consequences of having unprotected sex. This can result in unintended teenage pregnancies.
Sexual Abuse or Rape
It is not only uninformed choices that lead to unplanned teen pregnancies. Sexual abuse and rape are also a leading cause of teenage pregnancies world wide. The Guttmacher Institute states that between 43 and 62 percent of teens acknowledge that they were impregnated by an adult male.
About two-thirds of the teen moms report that their babies’ fathers are as old as 27. Approximately 5 percent of all teen births are the result of a rape.
Lack of Sex Education:
In certain cultures and countries girls are simply unaware of the means to avoid getting pregnant. This is due to the lack of or active discouragement of sex education in adolescents. Sex in many countries is considered taboo and therefore the subject is not discussed openly.
Teens feel shy and uncomfortable, and even ashamed, to seek birth control methods. They feel inhibited to ask for contraceptive methods, or they may also be simply to expensive for them to afford.
Even when contraceptives are widely available, sexually active adolescent girls are less likely to use them than adults. Girls may be unable to refuse unwanted sex or resist coerced sex, which tends to be unprotected. This can likely lead to an unplanned teen pregnancy.
According to the statistics released by WHO, about 16 million women 15–19 years old give birth each year, about 11% of all births worldwide.
Ninety-five per cent of these births occur in low- and middle-income countries. The average adolescent birth rate in middle income countries is more than twice as high as that in high-income countries, with the rate in low-income countries being five times as high.
Many movies and sitcoms and even novels have made it seem glamorous and fun to be a teenage mom. Movies and news stories that depict teenage pregnancy as something desirable encourage teens to engage in reckless sexual behavior.
When they perceive that teen pregnancy is acceptable from the movies and television shows, they may even seek to become pregnant themselves. This may be their way to gain social acceptance and fit in with the peer groups.
What can be done to prevent teen pregnancies?
Education is definitely one way to prevent teen pregnancies. There are other methods that may also be implemented in order to see a decline in the number of teenage births. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also laid down certain guidelines for nations to follow.
Teen pregnancy is a direct result of misinformation or lack of adequate information. Sex education should be made more extensive in schools. This would help the teenage girls to better understand their own biology.
The real physical consequences of having a baby on their bodies can actually help discourage teenage girls from unprotected sex. The adults in the teens’ lives should be responsible enough to provide accurate and complete information. Instead of shutting out discussion it is better to have an open and free talk about the facts so that your teen is better informed.
The better the teens are educated on the consequences of an unplanned teen pregnancy, the lesser they are likely to be reckless.
Open communication and honest discussions are extremely important to help your teens. Your teen, whether girl or boy, should feel comfortable enough to come and discuss any topic on sex that they may find perplexing.
If they feel comfortable enough to come and speak to you it is less likely that they will go to their friends for information. This way you have a better chance at helping your teen come to terms with the real consequnces of an unplanned pregnancy.
It is important to have “the sex talk” with your teen, and not only once. Over time, as you talk about this subject, be sure you:
- Teach your teenager the problems associated with unsafe sex.
- Explain that it is not only an unplanned pregnancy that can be the result of unsafe sex. Educate your teen about the different sexually transmitted diseases that they can contract due to it.
- Teach your teens, both boys and girls, the need to be responsible.
- Share the consequences of teen pregnancy with your kids. They are less likely to think it is “cool” once they realize the real implications.
- Provide accurate information about their basic biology. Girls need to understand ovulation and their menstrual cycle.
- Make your teenage daughter understand that girls can get pregnant the first time she has sex
Encourage Positive Goals:
Teens are less likely to indulge in reckless behavior if they see a bright future for themselves ahead of them. Teens have been seen to significantly delay the process of sex, pregnancy, and parenthood when they have a career or positive goals to look forward to.
Parents can help in this regard by encouraging and setting meaningful goals for teens for their future. Talking to your teens about their future plans and helping them chart out the path to reach it is definitely going to help.
But remember not to put too much pressure on them also. This might actually have the opposite result as they try to vent their frustrations via reckless and unsafe sexual behavior.
The response from WHO:
WHO published guidelines in 2011 with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on preventing early pregnancies and reducing poor reproductive outcomes.
These made recommendations for action that countries could take, with 6 main objectives:
- reducing marriage before the age of 18;
- creating understanding and support to reduce pregnancy before the age of 20;
- increasing the use of contraception by adolescents at risk of unintended pregnancy;
- reducing coerced sex among adolescents;
- reducing unsafe abortion among adolescents;
- increasing use of skilled antenatal, childbirth and postnatal care among adolescents.
There has been a gradual decline in the teen pregnancy rate all over the word. However, it still remains one of the greatest concerns in many countries. It is one of the leading causes of maternal and child mortality globally. High adolescent birthrates are not only due to willful unsafe sex. In many countries we have also noticed restricted access or shame related to acquiring contraception.
In order to try and lower the rate of teen pregnancies further one needs to impart proper sex education in schools. Making sex education more interesting and interactive is another way to tackle the situation.
Making contraception freely available to teens can also be a method to curb teenage pregnancies. Most importantly it is required to keep proper communication open between your teen and yourself so that you are able to help them understand their queries fully. Talk to them freely about using contraception and its advantages. Make sure you are approachable enough for them to come to with any problems. Encourage education. Inspire in them a desire for a positive future, one where they can provide the best life to a child, when they are no longer a child themselves.