Teen pregnancy rates in the United States are rapidly dropping. But in 2015, over 200,000 girls between 15 and 19 gave birth. Still, the United States’s teen pregnancy rate is one of the highest in the world. For the CDC, teen pregnancy is one of their seven top priorities.
But other than the statistics, teen pregnancy is not always terrible. Many teen moms are great mothers who work hard to raise their kids and make a better life for themselves and their baby.
Some choose to give their baby up for adoption, giving families a chance to have children, which may be otherwise impossible. On the other hand, some women choose to have abortions.
In the end, it is the teen mom’s choice as to what happens with her life and her baby. In the past twenty years or so, the portrayal of teen pregnancy has become common in the media—especially in television. Shows like 16 and Pregnant, One Tree Hill and even Gilmore Girls have made the hardship of teen pregnancy less taboo. Having it become more normalized can help raise awareness about how to prevent it and how to deal with it. These fifteen TV shows have sure taught us a lot.
15 The Secret Life Of The American Teenager (2008-2013)
The Secret Life Of The American Teenager is totally built around a teenage pregnancy plotline. Amy Juergens is a young freshman, played by a youthful Shailene Woodley, who finds out that she is pregnant. Over the summer, she lost her virginity to Ricky, an older guy, at band camp. After a bunch of drama, Amy gives birth to baby John and she and Ricky get engaged.
Meanwhile, Adrian—Ricky’s ex—gets pregnant when she hooks up with Ben to get back at Ricky. Ben and Adrian get engaged and are excited about the new addition to their family, but their daughter is born stillborn. Kathy, another high school girl, gets pregnant but gives her baby up for adoption. The Secret Life of The American Teenager shows us that pregnant teens have many different options.
14 Reba (2001-2007)
On the very first episode of the sitcom Reba, the country star’s daughter in the show, Cheyenne, discovers that she is pregnant. She is a senior in high school. When Cheyenne’s boyfriend, Van, gets kicked out of his house as a consequence, he moves in with Reba’s family. Eventually, Cheyenne and Van get married and Cheyenne, in classic sitcom style, goes into labor during high school graduation.
The family becomes very close-knit and Reba even sort of becomes a mother figure for Van. Unfortunately, the show tends to glamorize teen pregnancy making it look a lot easier than it actually is for many women. Pregnancy and parenting are hard work, but having a solid support system, like Reba’s character can make it a lot easier on teen parents.
13 Skins (2007-2013)
Skins is a British television show that follows a group of teenagers in Bristol, England. It is controversial in many different ways but was so wildly successful that the show was remade in the United States. Before her pregnancy, Jal seems to have a good head on her shoulders and is a very talented clarinet player.
In the second season, Jal starts dating Chris, but he cheats on her. However, they move in together anyways and Jal discovers she is pregnant. Jal eventually decides to have an abortion and tells Chris. Chris is supportive and wants to stick by her side, but soon forgets Jal’s name. Soon after, Chris dies from a brain hemorrhage. Talk about drama. This show portrays the fact that there can be very real consequences to all actions.
12 Shameless (2011-present)
Shameless is a remake of the British television show with the same name. The show takes place in the South Side of Chicago and follows a dysfunctional family with six children that basically parent themselves. During the 5th Season of the show, Debbie Gallagher loses her virginity to her boyfriend.
Fiona, Debbie’s older sister and guardian, previously took Debbie to get the pill. The doctor told Debbie the pill would not work for the first 48 hours and suggested condoms for that time period instead. However, Debbie tells her boyfriend Derek that she is on the pill when they are about to hook up, even though she knows the pill is not effective yet. It seems as if smart and sensible Debbie was trying to keep Derek around long term. What we can learn—always have protected intercourse.
11 Parenthood (2010-2015)
Amy plays Drew’s girlfriend and reoccurring fling in Parenthood. When Amy finds out that she is pregnant with Drew’s baby, she tells him that she wants to get an abortion. Drew is supportive of Amy’s decision but reveals to his family that he wishes Amy would keep the baby.
After Amy’s abortion, Drew still wants to be with Amy. But they ultimately decide to take a break. However, when the two go to college (Drew goes to Berkley and Amy goes to Tufts) Amy shows up in Drew’s dorm room because she seems to be running away from her life. Drew eventually convinces her to tell her parents about her abortion and about her break from college, but afterward, the pair never gets back together.
Drew’s advice to Amy to tell her parents about the abortion shows how important it is for a pregnant teen to have a solid support system.
10 Teen Mom (2009-2012; 2015-present)
Teen Mom is a spin-off of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. It followed Farrah Abraham, Catelynn Lowell, Amber Portwood and Maci Bookout from the first season of 16 and Pregnant. Farrah Abraham ended up having a lot of family drama and releasing a tape with some pretty intimate content on it. Catelynn Lowell originally planned on giving her daughter up for adoption, but keeps baby Carly, marries her baby daddy Tyler and has another daughter with Tyler.
Amber Portwood is a high school drop out that was arrested for possession of illegal substances and failing to complete a court-ordered rehab program. She went to jail for a few years, was engaged a handful of times and was aggressive toward her boyfriends and spouse. Maci Bookout married baby daddy Taylor McKinney and they have had two other children since her stint on 16 and Pregnant. The show shows the many different routes pregnant teens can choose.
9 90210 (2008-2013)
90210 covers anything and everything. In the first season of the show, Adrianna discovers that her ex-boyfriend found out that he was HIV positive. She decided to get tested for HIV herself, but though her results come back negative for HIV, they come back positive for pregnancy.
Because she has a history of substance use, she does not recall who the father of her baby is. When her current boyfriend, Navid, finds out, he dumps her. Eventually, she figures out that Ty is the father of her baby.
Ty’s parent pays to have her sent away because they do not want their son’s future to be over. Adrianna returns to spitefully reveal her secret and gets back together with Navid. She goes into labor at prom. As for what we can learn—don’t use such substances.
8 Gilmore Girls (2000-2007; 2016)
On the list of TV shows, we cannot forget Lorelai Gilmore. Though Gilmore Girls begins when Lorelai is 32 years old, she had her 16 year old daughter, Rory, when she was only 16 years old herself. In fact, the whole show demonstrates that a woman’s life does not have to be over when she becomes pregnant as a teen. It revolves around the strong relationship that Lorelai and Rory have.
Lorelai is inspiring to single moms and women everywhere. She left her well-off life and parents behind her in hopes of making a life for herself on her own. After some struggles, Lorelai shows that teen moms can succeed when she opens her own inn. The show can teach us a lot about relationships, motherhood and how hard work anyone can succeed in life. The 2016 revival leaves us with Rory falling off track and ending up unexpectedly single and pregnant.
7 16 And Pregnant (2009-2014)
16 and Pregnant was a surprising instant hit on MTV. The reality show followed the lives of several teenage girls who were dealing with teen pregnancy. The majority of girls on the show were at least 5-8 months pregnant. The show was shot in a documentary style featuring one girl in each episode of the show.
It was fairly controversial because many felt that the show glamorized teen pregnancy. Executives claimed that the purpose of the show was to encourage safe intercourse practices and show what teen pregnancy is actually like. Either way, the show was wildly popular and even had multiple spin-off shows including Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2 and Teen Mom 3. In the end, what we learn is that teen hormones and pregnancy hormones make crazy reality television.
6 The O.C. (2003-2007)
In The O.C., we find that Theresa has broken up with her abusive boyfriend, Eddie. She gets together with Ryan, her longtime friend and on-again-off-again boy toy. They soon break up and Ryan leaves Chino, while Theresa goes to Newport. Near the end of the first season, Theresa finds out she is pregnant but does not know who the father is. Theresa considers an abortion but decides to keep the baby and return to Chino.
Ryan thinks the baby might be his, so he returns to Chino to help Theresa raise the baby. The next season, Theresa doesn’t want Ryan to stay just because of the baby, so she convinces him that she had a miscarriage. She and Ryan continue in an on-again-off-again relationship, with an allusion to the fact that the baby might be Ryan’s. What we can learn from this is to have protected intercourse.
5 Life Unexpected (2010-2011)
While Life Unexpected only ran for two short seasons, it briefly tackled teen pregnancy. Lux Cassidy is the main character. She is a teenager that spent her life in the foster system when her teen parents gave her up at birth. However, when she finds her biological parents to get them to sign her emancipation papers, they take her into custody.
Her dad, Baze is a bar owner and her mother, Cate is a local radio personality. Though at first, Baze and Cate’s custody is only temporary, they eventually gain permanent custody. The show deals with new parents dealing with a teenager and facing their own relationship, for the first time. Parenting is not easy and the foster system is not great for kids, but it can still work.
4 Glee (2009-2015)
One of the many complicated plotlines in the hit show Glee is teen pregnancy. Quinn Fabray, the head cheerleader, manages to convince her quarterback boyfriend, Finn, that she got pregnant when they were making out in a hot tub. (Hint: One cannot get pregnant that way.) In his naiveté, Finn believes Quinn.
In actuality, the baby daddy is Finn’s best friend, Puck. Finn and Quinn break up, so Quinn tries to have a relationship with Puck. Things do not go well for them and they too break up. Quinn gives birth to a baby girl that is adopted by Shelby Corcoran, the glee coach of Vocal Adrenaline, New Directions’ biggest competition, and Rachel’s biological mother. Quinn goes on to Yale University. She shows that life does not have to be over just because of teen pregnancy.
3 Last Man Standing (2011-2017)
Kristin, played by Alexandra Krosney and Amanda Fuller, is the daughter of Mike, played by Tim Allen, on the hit show Last Man Standing. Kristin got pregnant as a senior in high school and lives with her son, Boyd, in her parents’ house. She moves out of her parents’ house during season two because she does well working at an upscale restaurant.
In the third season, she is reunited with her baby’s father, played by the hunky Nick Jonas. The two start up a relationship and eventually get married. Ryan is very liberal, and while Kristin is slightly more liberal than the rest of her family, the two parents’ views on parenting Boyd occasionally clash. But, what is important in the end is that Boyd is surrounded by a lot of people that love him.
2 One Tree Hill (2003-2012)
One of our favorite teen dramas ever is One Tree Hill. One of our favorite couples ever, Nathan and Haley get married after a rocky but blossoming relationship. Haley has some big news at the end of Season 3, and just as she is about to tell Nathan, he jumps in a river to save the life of his uncle after the uncle’s limo swerved off a bridge. The following season, viewers find out that the big news is that Haley got into Stanford, but it turns out, Haley is pregnant and reveals it to Nathan right after he finds out that he got into Duke.
Once again, in classic teen drama style, Haley, the valedictorian, goes into labor at graduation. Haley and Nathan work hard to raise little Jamie. From them, we learn that relationships and being a parent is not easy, but it is worth it.
1 Zoey 101 (2005-2008)
Zoey 101 was one of the most beloved shows on Nickelodeon but came to a very abrupt end. While the show did not have any samples of teen pregnancy, the reason it ended so quickly is that the show’s lead, Zoey, aka Jamie Lynn Spears, was pregnant. She was only 16 at the time. Casey Aldridge, her boyfriend of two years, was the father and was eighteen years old.
Spears gave birth to Maddie Briann Aldridge on June 19, 2008. The pregnancy was very controversial because it was in such stark contrast with her “nice girl” persona on Zoey 101 and because her boyfriend was legally an adult.
Jamie did not end up together with Aldridge, but was married to another man in 2014 and is expecting a second child in 2018. Despite teen pregnancy, the younger Spears seems to have her life together and is happy. Teen pregnancy is not the end of the world.