By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
In the United States, approximately 1 million teenage girls become pregnant every year. About 25% of teenage girls who give birth have another baby within 2 years. In order to lower teenage birthrates, teens must be educated about sex and the consequences of pregnancy.
Teen mothers are less likely to complete school and more likely to be single parents. Future prospects for teenagers decline significantly if they have a baby early. Teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to live in poverty and rely on welfare.
Prenatal care is essential for monitoring the growth of the fetus; keeping the mother's weight in check; and advising the mother on nutrition and how she should take care of herself to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Teenage mothers are also less likely to seek regular prenatal care. Babies born to teenagers are at risk of neglect and abuse because their young mothers are uncertain about their roles and may be frustrated by the constant demands of caretaking.
Children born to teen mothers suffer from higher rates of low birth weight and related health problems. Babies with low birth weight are more likely to have organs that are not fully developed, which can result in complications such as bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, and intestinal problems. Common medical problems among adolescent mothers include poor weight gain, pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and cephalopelvic disproportion.
Teenage pregnancies are associated with an increased rate of delinquent behaviors in the fathers, including alcohol and substance abuse, lower educational level, and reduced earning potential. Moreover, teen pregnancy poses a substantial financial burden to society. Each year the federal department of the US government spends about $40 billion in welfare fund to help teenage mothers in building a life for herself and her child.
Parents should take preventive measures and talk with their children about sex and even contraceptives often and early during their child's developmental years. Do not be vague, be specific and don't mince words when you are explaining your teenager the consequences of being a parent at a very young age. Also, be friendly with your children and talk with them about their friends, interests and where they usually hang out. Open and communicative relationship with teenagers contributes greatly in avoiding teenage pregnancies. Help your children set meaningful goals for the future and what it takes to realize your dreams.
Initiatives should be taken to incorporate medically accurate sexuality education and information in the schools and in the media, improvements in funding for and access to family planning services, and youth development programs to improve the life options of impoverished teens.
In case a teenager gets pregnant, she and her family, and even the father of the baby and his family if they do want to support, deserve honest and sensitive counseling about options available to them, from abortion to adoption. Special support systems, including consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist when needed, should be available to help the teenager throughout the pregnancy, the birth, and the decision about whether to keep the infant or give it up for adoption.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.