Teen pregnancy is a harrowing topic for a variety of reasons. For one, it involves the birth of a child by a young adult who may still be in the stages of physical and mental growth as they transition from childhood to adulthood. It can be a tough process for both the teenager, the parent and the teenager’s baby for a variety of reasons. There are a number of health risks associated with teen pregnancy for the mom and the baby and a number of emotional and financial stresses that the teenage mom could face during pregnancy and after giving birth.
Teen pregnancy has actually decreased quite a bit over the years, but there still remains a considerable number of teenage girls getting pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, approximately 750,000 teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year. However, there are plenty of young girls unaware of the risks of pregnancy during sexual activity based on a lack of sex education and proper guidance.
Being a teen mom can be a bigger challenge to overcome than being an adult parent because there are special circumstances that these young women find themselves in that older individuals don’t. For instance, there’s the need for aid from a parent or other adult, social acceptance from peers during adolescence, and financial difficulties that minors face. Below is a list of some of the top risks that teenage girls face during and after pregnancy.
15 Inadequate Prenatal Care
One of the first risks that pregnant teenagers face is a lack of access to, or inadequate, prenatal care. It can be hard for a pregnant teen to get the proper prenatal care for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons may be a lack of support from the parent(s) or guardian(s). If a teen is left to fend for themselves during pregnancy, they run the risk of not getting the proper care either because they don’t know how to go about getting care or they can’t afford regular visits. And sometimes, it can be a combination of both. Sometimes early prenatal care doesn’t happen because the girl if afraid for her family to know, and she feels going to her regular doctor is going to get her in trouble.
Regular prenatal care is important for any pregnant woman because it helps the mother and doctor keep a record of the health of the mother and the baby. A teen who doesn’t have access to regular checkups may be more susceptible to illnesses and improper self-care during pregnancy. It may also cause problems for the baby in the off chance that something happens and it requires medical attention. Teen moms should visit their healthcare provider early and often to get the care that they need. If a teen doesn’t have access to a regular doctor, it is advised that they seek help from a school nurse or counselor filter through their options like a clinic or state-sponsored programs that aids in medical care.
14 Higher Risk Of Premature Birth
Pregnant teens are also at risk for giving birth prematurely. A full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, and any baby born before 37 weeks could be considered premature. According to WebMD, about one in ten babies are born prematurely.
Most babies are able to recover from a premature birth given the time to do so, and they are usually able to catch up to the health of full-term babies eventually. “Preemie” babies are at a higher risk for certain defects and illnesses such as autism, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, lung issues and vision and/or hearing impairment to name a few. A baby is at a higher risk of having medical problems the earlier they are born. Babies that are born after the seven-month mark usually don’t have to spend as much time in recovery (maybe a few days in the NICU) as babies born earlier than that. Luckily, doctors can halt premature labor in some cases using a combination of medication and bed rest.
13 Higher Risk Of Low Birth Weight
Teenagers run the risk of having babies with low birth weight, especially if the child is born prematurely. Premature babies are notoriously smaller in birth weight than their full-term counterparts. WebMD states that babies born with a low birth weight typically weigh between 3.3 and 5.5 pounds. Babies with extremely low birth weights are below 3.3 and typically have to be placed on a ventilator to aid in breathing after they are born.
It has also been said that low birth weight contributes to different disorders that a baby may face during childhood, and low birth weight babies even have a higher infant mortality rate. According to Healthcommunities.com, low-birthweight babies are at an increased risk of having organs that aren’t fully developed, which can create serious issues such as bleeding in the brain, intestinal issues and respiratory distress syndrome, to name a few.
12 Risk For High Blood Pressure
According to WebMD, pregnant teens are also more susceptible to high blood pressure (i.e. pregnancy-induced hypertension) than pregnant women in their 20s and 30s. High blood pressure can then lead to a plethora of other issues that could have dangerous consequences for both mother and baby.
PIH can lead to another condition known as preeclampsia. This condition is especially common for pregnant women who may not have had issues with high blood pressure prior to becoming pregnant. It is a dangerous cocktail of high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. It causes swelling in the legs, hands and feet. This could put the baby at risk for certain illnesses. It can also disrupt the baby’s growth process and lead to premature birth. In some rare cases, it may even lead to death. There are medicines that the mother can take to treat the symptoms of high blood pressure, but she has to be wary as certain medications can potentially cause problems during pregnancy.
11 Higher Risk Of Postpartum Depression
Motherhood can be a huge adjustment for first-time moms, but even more so for young teen mothers. Teen moms will likely have a harder time adjusting to the new life as they have to leave many aspects of their childhood behind to care for their own child. This can be a very harrowing task. Imagine having to miss prom, or not being able to go out with friends anymore, feeling cut off from family and friends during this time.
It can be a difficult transition as teen mothers try to figure out who they can turn to in their time of need, while simultaneously trying to figure out how to be a parent. All of this on top of going to school full-time and possibly working a job. It can be very difficult and frustrating, and that frustration can lead down the road to depression. It is extremely important that new teen moms get the help that they may need mentally so that they can properly prepare for the task that lays ahead of them, which is taking care of a child.
10 Likelihood Of Isolation And Loneliness
Again, it can be very difficult for a teen mom to transition into her new role as a mother. To go from living in your own childhood to helping another human being along theirs is difficult. It is even more difficult a task to go alone. If a teen mom does not have any type of support from friends or family, she is more likely to put herself and her baby at risk for a variety of mental and physical health risks.
For an already angsty teen, this can be a very dangerous thing, because it could result in poor exercise, diet and sleeping habits. It is imperative that a teen who may feel like they can’t speak to their family or friends about their pregnancy seek help from a professional such as a counselor or nurse who can help provide them with alternative resources and support during their pregnancy.
9 Higher Risk For Anemia
Teens are also at a higher risk of getting anemia while pregnant. This risk is most commonly associated with a lack of prenatal care. Anemia is basically an iron deficiency or low hemoglobin count in the blood. About 14 percent of women experience this.
According to a West Michigan study, teens experience anemia at higher rates because many lack a healthy diet, thus having an insufficient caloric intake during their pregnancy. More teenage girls between 15 and 19 experience anemia as compared to young women in their early twenties to mid-forties. This is just one other reason why it is important for teenagers to seek out proper medical care on a regular basis so that they can ensure a relatively smooth pregnancy and look out for the health of their baby at the same time. This also includes eating properly, getting enough sleep and getting some form of exercise every day. This brings us to the next point below.
8 Poor Eating Habits
Getting a teenager to eat properly for one can be hard enough, but for two it seems a mission impossible. Teens and young kids are notorious for their poor eating choices. And, sometimes these kids actually turn out okay despite eating junk food. However, it is not a good idea for a teen who is eating for herself and her baby to constantly indulge in junk food, because of the potential risks for her and the baby.
During pregnancy, it is especially important that the mom is getting the proper vitamins and nutrients needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Some of those vitamins include folic acid, protein, calcium and iron. These should be taken along with any prenatal vitamins to ensure the growth and health of mom and baby who are both in the process of growing and changing physically. Not to mention, healthy eating habits help ward off certain health problems like gestational diabetes and others that can cause the baby to develop health issues and be born over or underweight.
7 Increased Health Risks For Children
There are many increased health risks for children born to teen mothers for a variety of reasons. As for the physical, the mother, whose body is still growing, may not be able to carry a baby to term. She may also develop bad habits as far as eating and sleeping that cause the baby to develop certain illnesses or birth defects similar to the ones discussed earlier on in this article.
Other risks are less about physical factors and more about emotional and financial factors. Teen moms are less likely to seek out prenatal care, sometimes because they lack the funds. They are also less likely to have the baby seen after birth because of financial issues. According to Healthcommunities.org, children born to teenagers are less likely to receive the necessary healthcare and nutrition. They are also less likely to develop proper cognitive and social skills. This ultimately puts them at a risk of low scholastic achievements. Children born to teen moms are also at an increased risk of facing neglect and abuse.
6 Higher Risk Of Passing Infections To Baby During Delivery
This is a very real problem that teen moms face and should get tested for. Often times, teens get pregnant because they lacked the guidance and education that they needed about sex. When a teen can’t confide in their parents or another trustworthy adult about sex, they may start to turn to friends and other peers for advice, which may not be the best.
This increases their likelihood of having unprotected sex and getting pregnant. Unprotected sex also puts them at risk of contracting an STD and passing it onto the baby if they are pregnant. If a teen has had unprotected sex, it is imperative that they get tested, especially if they are pregnant. Teenagers who have had sex while pregnant are especially vulnerable to STDs like chlamydia and HIV. If a teen contracts an STD, it is likely that it could infect the uterus and subsequently, the baby growing inside.
5 Higher Risk Of Inadequate Weight Gain
Teen moms may also have a problem with gaining weight during pregnancy. This may often occur as a result of their poor diet choices. If a teen mom has an irregular eating pattern, or if she does not eat enough throughout the day, this could cause them to have problems gaining weight while pregnant. While some may see this as a good thing, it is definitely the opposite.
Inadequate weight gain means big trouble for the baby because there is the possibility that the baby could be born with a low birth weight. And as it was discussed earlier, low birth weight babies run into a variety of issues, namely problems with underdeveloped organs. It is important that the mom eats a healthy diet and eat regularly so that she gains weight at a steady pace. This can help reduce the risk of having a low birth weight baby.
4 Higher Risk For Pregnancy Conditions
As discussed earlier, pregnant teens are at a higher risk of having high blood pressure or pregnancy-induced-hypertension. PIH is basically the development of hypertension in a pregnant woman after 20 weeks gestation. She usually doesn’t display signs of preeclampsia with protein in the urine or other symptoms.
According to West Michigan, preeclampsia increases the risk of placental abruption, maternal renal failure, and cerebral hemorrhage. Placental abruption is when the placenta detaches from the womb prior to giving birth. Maternal renal failure occurs in women with a chronic kidney disease or illness that affects their kidney. The odds of kidney complications can increase when a woman with a chronic illness becomes pregnant. A cerebral hemorrhage is basically when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. All of these are very serious side effects of PIH. It is also fairly common in African-American and Caucasian women under the age of 20.
3 Higher Risk Of Social And Financial Problems
There are many social and financial issues a pregnant teen might face as well. Some of the problems are listed above such as isolation, depression and anxiety. Teens who are pregnant experience issues in school and may struggle to graduate. Some even drop out. There is also the issue of deciding whether or not to keep the baby. Some teens may or may not even have a choice in whether they want to keep the baby or have an abortion.
Teen moms are also more likely to live in poverty, especially if they have trouble receiving support from their parents or legal guardian. There is also an increased risk of domestic violence and abuse, as well as a hard time coping with pregnancy and parenthood. Teens have a hard time sharing things with other people and end up feeling isolated and alone. Again, it is always recommended that a teen seeks counsel from a professional that can help with financial resources and social issues.
2 Higher Risk Of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
A very unfortunate risk of teen pregnancy is sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. The ultimate cause of SIDS is unknown, but there are a variety of factors that increase the risk of an infant having SIDS. Environmental hazards such as headboards, a parent who is a wild sleeper, placing a baby on their stomach and/or smoking or drinking around a baby.
Teen moms are at an increased risk of having their baby die from SIDS because they already have a higher risk of illnesses before and after birth. This could potentially increase the odds of SIDS. But, it is not the only reason. Teen moms are young, inexperienced and still children themselves. Some may ignore certain advice about preventing SIDS and sleeping rules. Others may just have a hard time adjusting to motherhood and figuring out how to care for their child. That risk can get significantly higher if the teen has no help from an adult and is left to figure things out on their own. It is very dangerous for the mom and extremely dangerous for the baby.
1 Higher Risk Of Abuse And Neglect
Finally, there is a high risk of abuse and neglect among teen parents and their children. According to Health Communities, 5 percent of pregnant teens are the victims of rape. For these teens and for the teenagers in abusive relationships or abusive homes, it can present very real danger to the safety of the baby both during pregnancy and after the baby is born.
A teen in an abusive relationship or situation has a high chance of facing complications during pregnancy due to abuse, and in severe cases may even suffer a miscarriage. Outside of abusive relationships, teens who are struggling to make due and take care of their child because they lack the emotional and financial resources to do so also pose a real threat to the safety of their child. It also increases the likelihood that the child will face similar circumstances growing up and when they are adults.