Although the teen pregnancy rate has declined by 55 percent since 1990, teens are still becoming pregnant and giving birth and 82 percent of those are unintended pregnancies. While it is possible that a teen who becomes pregnant can experience a healthy pregnancy and be an excellent parent, many pregnant and parenting teens struggle with multiple stressors, health risks and other complex issues. Being pregnant as a teenager puts you at higher risk for having a baby born too early, with a low birth weight and, tragically, higher risk of death.
What are the risks?
If a pregnancy is unplanned, the mother may not be getting the prenatal care she and her baby need or may not even be healthy enough to carry a child to term.
Teens are often unprepared for the realities involved in parenting an infant. Often, complex relationships and financial burden combined with balancing school and parenting are stressful and can put a newborn at risk.
Teens who are pregnant or raising a baby have a hard time finishing school. Only 3 percent of teens who have a baby receive their college diploma before the age of 30.
Many teen parents are single. Being a single parent can have financial and emotional stressors and a stressed parent puts a baby at risk.
Parents often need resources to help them navigate their child’s well-being and development. Teens may not be aware of this type of assistance.
What can be done to reduce the risks?
Teens can prevent a pregnancy with effective and easy birth control methods that are widely available. Low-maintenance, low-cost or free birth control are available at many doctor’s offices and clinics. At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Birth Control for Teens Clinic (BC4Teens) provides many types of birth control for young women up to the age or 22, including low maintenance contraception such as an implant that is placed in the upper arm and can prevent pregnancy for three years.
Teens who test positive for pregnancy should know their options and resources and act quickly. Being pregnant can be emotional and scary for a teen and she may be afraid to tell her parents or a trusted adult. The Pregnancy Support Guide, developed for pregnant teens discusses pregnancy options, resources and answers frequently asked questions about pregnancy.
Teens who are pregnant should immediately stop all use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco products. Additionally, they should be eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.
If the teen is continuing with the pregnancy, she must schedule a prenatal care appointment as soon as possible. The Teen and Pregnant Program (TaP) at Nationwide Children’s provides pregnant young women (up to age 21 ½), and their families, competent prenatal care, education and support to achieve better birth outcomes. TaP empowers young, pregnant teens by giving them the tools to have healthy pregnancies, have healthy babies and be great parents.
Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S, coordinates community outreach and marketing for Nationwide Children's Hospital Teen and Pregnant Program, BC4Teens birth control clinic, and the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes collaborative.
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