Teen Pregnancy - Here’s What You Need To Know
No matter the circumstances, finding out that you’re pregnant is a life-changing experience whether that be a teen pregnancy or a geriatric pregnancy. But for some girls and their families, the prospects of teen pregnancy can feel scary, confusing, and upsetting.
First, it’s important that young women know how to keep themselves safe. If they do become pregnant, it’s essential they know their options. And if they intend to keep their baby, they need support and compassion during this journey.
Let’s get into everything you need to know.
WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS OF TEEN PREGNANCY?
The rates of teen pregnancy are dropping. In 2017, about 200,000 babies were born to young women between ages 14-19. This was a record low for American teens, but it’s still a number that’s significantly higher than other developed countries.
Some risk factors can increase the chances of teenage pregnancy. These include:
- Lower income levels or poverty
- Living within the welfare system
- Low education
- Being black or Hispanic
Awareness and prevention remain key to avoiding unintentional pregnancies. From adolescence, teenagers need access to contraception and reproductive health services. They also benefit from having open conversations about sex and safety with trusted adult figures.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH TEEN PREGNANCY?
Becoming a parent remains the leading reason that women drop out of high school. Over half of teen mothers never graduate. This lack of education can create numerous obstacles for women regarding their careers and future earning potential.
Likewise, over 80% of fathers never marry the teen mother. While marriage is certainly not necessary for successful parenting, a stable relationship between mom and dad is paramount for a child’s well-being.
Some teenagers decide to get married young- often for the sake of having the child. Sometimes, teenagers feel pressured by family members to do this. However, teen and early adult marriage also have risks. Many times, one or both partners isn’t emotionally or financially prepared to cope with the challenges of raising a family.
HOW CAN TEENAGERS PROTECT THEMSELVES?
Abstinence is the only guaranteed method to avoid unintentional pregnancy. That said, numerous birth control options have over about a 99% effectiveness rate. If a teenage girl is considering becoming sexually active, it’s critical for her to know how to protect herself.
Some teenagers might feel safe talking to their parents. If that’s the case, girls can start with that approach by letting them know they’d like to get birth control.
However, many teenagers feel uncomfortable talking to their parents. They might worry about being judged, punished, or even ostracized from the family. Teenage girls do still have options. They can make an appointment with their primary care physician or gynecologist. They can also go to a local clinic or health center to discuss birth control. Doctor-patient confidentiality laws maintain privacy.
You must use birth control exactly as prescribed- every single time- the effectiveness rate decreases with missed pills, late appointments, etc.
WHAT IF YOU THINK YOU’RE PREGNANT?
Many people first speculate their pregnancies when they miss a period. That said, among teenage girls, missed menstrual cycles are common. It can take several years for a cycle to regulate, and variables like stress, sports, or weight changes can all impact this process. Therefore, a missed period doesn't inherently indicate pregnancy.
Pregnancy symptoms can mimic PMS symptoms, and symptoms look different for every woman. Some common ones include:
- Morning sickness or nausea
- Breast tenderness
- Food cravings
It should also be noted that some women experience very mild symptoms or don’t experience any symptoms at all. This phenomenon can make detecting pregnancy challenging.
If you do think you are pregnant, it’s essential to take a pregnancy test. While this may seem scary, it’s the only way to accurately determine pregnancy. If your period is already late, you can take a test right away. If you haven’t missed your period late, wait a few days or at least one to two weeks after having sex. Taking a test too early can result in false negatives.
Ideally, you should take a test during your first morning pee. This urine will have the highest concentration of the HCG hormone that detects pregnancy.
I’M PREGNANT. NOW WHAT?
If you discover you’re pregnant, you might experience a myriad of emotions. It’s not uncommon to feel any combination of fear, sadness, shame, confusion, gratitude, and excitement. It’s also not uncommon to feel shocked and relatively numb.
The first step is making an appointment with your primary care physician. Regardless of how you intend to move forward with your pregnancy, it’s important to obtain the necessary resources and prenatal care. Your doctor will work with you to discuss the best options for your future.
It would be best if you made a plan for telling the child’s father. If you two are in a happy and open relationship, this might be an easy conversation. If the dynamics are more rocky, this discussion may seem stressful. Plan ahead for how you want to approach the subject, rehearse what you want to say, and choose a neutral time and place to break the news.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to tell your parents as soon as possible. For some girls, this may seem incredibly scary. Try your best to be honest and open and let them know that you need their support. While some parents may respond with anger, they may just need time to process the experience and settle down.
If you feel nervous about talking with your parents, consider enlisting in a trusted friend to help you initiate the conversation. Even if your parents react with anger, you’ll still have support.
If you genuinely don’t feel safe reaching out to your parents, make sure you find an adult that you can trust. This adult might be a relative, but it can also be your coach, teacher, a friend’s parent, or even the school nurse.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TEEN PREGNANCY
While teen pregnancy can be scary, many girls cope with this reality every single day. You’re not alone. Allow yourself to feel your feelings and talk to a trusted adult. Make sure you seek support and take time to consider your options. For now, don't worry about buying essential items like discount baby clothes or other key parenting products you will need, there is time ahead for that. Focus on yourself and communication today.