A teenage pregnancy, as defined by the American Pregnancy Association, is a pregnancy that occurs for a woman under the age of 20. Although technically not a teenager, a young woman 12 or under who is pregnant falls into this definition of teenage pregnancy as well. With over 200,000 babies being born to teenage women in the US, teenage pregnancy or adolescent pregnancy isn’t an uncommon occurrence. However, that doesn’t stop teenage women who are expecting from feeling daunted by their pregnancy, particularly if it was unplanned.
If you are experiencing pregnancy symptoms and suspect you could be pregnant, the first step is to wait until the expected day of your period and take a pregnancy test. After a positive urine or blood test, a sonogram or ultrasound is the best way to confirm the pregnancy and find out how far along you are. You can call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-672-2296 to find free or low-cost ultrasound services.
While there are some increased risks associated with teen pregnancy and it isn’t easy preparing for such a huge life change, educating yourself about pregnancy can help you begin to prepare and look forward to happy, healthy teen pregnancy.
Making The Right Choices About a Teenage Pregnancy
In cases of unplanned teenage pregnancy, it’s important to carefully consider the options available. Some young women may feel that they are not yet ready to become parents, and in these cases, they know they have two options: continue with the pregnancy and place the baby for adoption, or terminate the pregnancy. All three options (parenting, adoption, and abortion) have associated pros and cons. You will probably find it helpful to talk about your options with a pregnancy educator by calling 1-800-672-2296. As you work through your options, it is important to think about your baby, yourself, and how your decision could affect others.
Raising Your Baby as a Parent
For those who would like to parent their child, it’s important to start formulating a plan so that you feel prepared for your baby’s arrival. Being a teen mom is doable. It has challenges, but most of those can be overcome with help and support.
A pregnant teenager should consider the following questions:
- Where will you live?
- Will you raise the baby alone or with the father?
- How will you support yourself and the baby financially?
- Will your family be able to help with childcare and if so, how much?
- Can you continue with your education during and after pregnancy?
- Are there resources available to you within your community, such as childcare or support groups?
- What state programs can I sign up for?
- Can a local church help me find a suitable program?
- Do I qualify for food stamps?
- If doing it alone, can the state help me get child support?
- Are there any available grants or financial assistance for teen mothers?
Don’t work through these questions alone. Talk to your parents, a trusted friend, or a pregnancy educator through our toll-free helpline 1-800-672-2296 or find a local free pregnancy center.
Adoption is a positive solution for teenage women who don’t believe in or agree with termination, or who would prefer to carry their baby to full term but do not feel prepared to raise the child. Once again, doctors and other healthcare professionals may be able to advise on adoption procedures in these instances. There are many adoption programs available offering financial incentives to healthy teens who are looking into adoption. Not all women can get pregnant so easily. WomensHealth.gov reports that,
“About one-third of couples in which the woman is over 35 have fertility problems.”
Just imagine the joy a baby would bring to one of these couples and the love he or she would receive from them. The choice to place for adoption is an option that goes beyond just thinking about yourself and to meeting the needs of someone else. It is a sacrifice, but it can be rewarding as well.
Laws regarding termination vary from state to state. Depending on the age of the teenager and the state they live in, it may be necessary for a parent or guardian to decide and sign for the termination or abortion of the baby. In other states, teenagers may be able to make this decision themselves. If you need to find out the laws for your state and if abortion is right for you, click here or call this private toll-free hotline at 1-800-672-2296. Be sure to ask about the medical and surgical options available to you and how much time you have to decide. Pregnant teens should consider the following questions:
- How much is it?
- Do I need parental consent?
- What are the laws about termination in my state?
- What type of procedure do I want?
- How far along am I and how does that affect the procedure options?
- What are the risks associated with each type of procedure?
- How might I feel after the procedure physically? Emotionally?
- How might this affect me in the future?
- Is abortion the only way I can continue my schooling or other goals?
- Do I have any moral or religious objections to abortion?
Remember this is an important life decision and you are not alone. Our APA pregnancy educators put your privacy first. Call our toll-free hotline 1-800-672-2296.
Complications and Risks of a Teenage Pregnancy
Since the adolescent body is still developing, it is not quite as well-equipped for dealing with the effects of pregnancy and childbirth as it would be after the age of 20. The body is amazing and will make adjustments to support your growing baby. However, since your body is both changing for pregnancy and still developing, you and your healthcare provider will be paying closer attention to your progress and symptoms.
Some of the key risks for mothers during teenage pregnancy are:
Your healthcare provider will monitor you and/or screen you for each of these conditions. There are also steps you can take to decrease your chances of experiencing any of these conditions. You can learn more below on what steps to take.
The risks for babies with teen mothers are:
- Early labor or preterm labor (before 37 weeks)
- Low birth weight
- Obstructed labor is a result of an underdeveloped pelvis, is more common in teenage mothers under the age of 15 than the general population.
A cesarean birth tends to be the most common solution to this problem, and although risks associated with C-sections are relatively low in the US, teenagers and parents must be prepared for the additional recovery and healing time if a cesarean is necessary.
Minimizing Risks of Complications For Both Mother and Baby of a Teenage Pregnancy
- Have a great Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN)
An OB/GYN will conduct all your prenatal visits and prenatal tests. Look for a well-respected and trustworthy OB/GYN with experience in teen pregnancy.
- Improve Your Diet and Nutrition
A balanced diet for pregnancy ensures your precious baby grows at a healthy rate and minimizes the risk of anemia and nutritional deficiencies in mom. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a nutritionist or provide you with advice on healthy eating during pregnancy.
- Take Prenatal Vitamins
Supplements and prenatal vitamins are designed specifically for pregnant women and help to ensure a teenage mom gets all the essential vitamins and minerals she needs. This keeps her and baby healthy and helps to minimize the risk of birth defects. Folic acid is a particularly important supplement during pregnancy.
- Exercise Often and Get Enough Sleep
Gentle prenatal exercise helps strengthen the body and increase stamina to prepare for labor and delivery. It might also help you feel ready for bed each night so that you can get some quality sleep – 8 or 9 hours of sleep each night is ideal for pregnancy.
All of these substances can harm an unborn baby, so quitting is vital for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Healthcare providers should be able to provide extra support for those struggling with addiction.
- Practice Safer Sex or Abstinence
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) contracted during pregnancy could risk the health of both mom and baby, so it is vital that pregnant teenagers use condoms if they’re having sex. STIs during pregnancy can cause serious and permanent defects in a developing baby and can be passed on to the baby during birth, causing infection. It is important to remember that condoms do NOT protect a person 100% from getting an STI; viruses, bacteria, and parasites that cause infection can be present on genital areas not covered by a condom.
Emotional Well-Being During Teenage Pregnancy
Pregnancy puts a great deal of physical pressure on the body, but it’s also important to consider the mental well-being of pregnant teens. With the prospect of labor and childbirth ahead of them and, if they choose to raise the baby, with their whole lives set to be changed by parenthood, it’s not uncommon to experience stress, anxiety, or even prenatal depression. Talking therapies may be helpful for pregnant teens to come to terms with their situation and talk over the worries in a safe, confidential environment. Parents too may benefit from therapy as it can be tough for them to process the significant changes happening in their daughter’s life. If access to a psychotherapist isn’t possible, look elsewhere within your community. School counselors and local teen pregnancy support groups are good examples of places you could turn for emotional support.
Getting An Education During a Teenage Pregnancy
Teen pregnancy poses a significant risk to education, with many teenage mothers dropping out of school to care for their child. However, education is incredibly important because it will allow young moms to find work in the future and be able to provide for their new family financially. It can be beneficial to speak with teachers and/or a school counselor to learn what options are available concerning extra tutoring, flexible classes, and childcare. This will also be an excellent opportunity to discuss the right time to leave school in readiness for labor, and a good time to return after physically recovering from having the baby. If you have questions, our Pregnancy Educators have answers. Call our confidential, toll-free helpline at 1-800-672-2296.
Want to Know More?
- Medicaid for Pregnant Women
- Financial Assistance for Adoption
- Adoption Options
- Adoption Questions to Ask Yourself
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. CDC.gov. Centers for Disease Control. Reproductive Health: Teen Pregnancy
2. NIH. US National Library of Medicine. Teenage Pregnancy
3. OWH. WomensHealth.gov. U.S. Department Of Health and Human Services. Infertility
4. HealthDirect. Pregnancy Birth and Baby. Teenage Pregnancy