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5 How many of us either are or know someone that is or was a teen mom??? Having my first child at 17 years of age, I was a teen mom. I can remember sitting with my guidance counselor as he told me that I would not be able to finish my junior year in high school because pregnant ‘children’ were not allowed in school. I was sent to a high school for pregnant girls; the first step to my feeling isolated, alone and ashamed. I decided to quit school, have my child and then return to school for my GED.
I had not had the support of too many people; my family talked behind my back about what a horrible child I was and my friends were moving on with their lives as they were going into their senior years and preparing for college. My son’s father was just a kid himself; without going into his life issues, let’s just say I was left to raise my son as a single parent. Along with support from my mother (who was obviously disappointed in me, even months after the birth of my son), I had my grandmother who played a major role in my learning basic parenting skills. Without the two of them I have no idea where me, or my son would be today.
I can absolutely relate to 100% of the information that I provide to you all in this piece. My personal story is lengthy and relevant (and will be discussed soon enough for the sake of helping youth). Please read…take the information in, and apply it to the lives of as many teens as you possibly can. Let’s work together to make change….
I was unable to find accurate information for 2013 so had to go with research I collected for a previous research project; the dates vary between 2005 and 2011.
The latest stats suggest that each year in the United States more than 750,000 teens get pregnant; of those, approximately 445,000 will go on to give birth to their children. The year 2005 was the lowest point in teen pregnancy in more than 30 years; 41% lower than in 1990. Although this has been the case, the birth rate increased in 2006 by 3%.
Teens having babies come with a few important risks that we all should know about; especially if you are a teen considering pregnancy, if you are a pregnant teen, or know a teen that is pregnant. A few of these risks include physical, emotional and social risks.
Some Physical Risks:
Some of you may think that what I have listed here is common sense; you would be surprised how many teens continue smoking and substance abuse, and do not get prenatal care.
About 15% of all pregnant teens give birth prematurely – babies born prematurely are at risk for a few serious health issues; some of these health issues may be life long and in some cases even fatal.
When pregnant it is extremely important to change one’s lifestyle; this can be difficult for many teens – pregnant teens should avoid smoking, drinking and drug use during their entire pregnancy. Continuing such behaviors can cause low birth rate, pre-term birth, birth defects, placenta problems and even fetal/infant death.
A little over 7% of teen mothers either receive little or no prenatal care during their pregnancy – going to all appointments and receiving suggested diagnostic testing, along with following the instructions of a doctor regarding nutrition and care can prevent some of the many issues that can affect the well-being and overall life of a child. Early detection can save a child’s life.
Emotional damage is one of the most prevalent and unavoidable risks of teens that have babies approximately 85% of teen pregnancies are not planned which can cause many major problems. Teen moms must mature at a much faster rate than their counterparts which can have a profound effect on the rest of the teen’s life.
One of the more common emotional risks includes postpartum depression – this can interfere with the care that the teen must provide to her infant. Postpartum depression is also common in adults; just imagine, it is difficult for an adult can you imagine a teen….a child???
There are several ways to prevent this; one way is to educate pregnant teens about postpartum depression prior to giving birth, thus allowing them the opportunity to recognize the negative emotions that come along with this type of depression. Realizing the negative emotions early on the teen can seek help.
Isolation and loneliness are other emotional risks of teen pregnancy – teens may find it difficult to take care of their basic needs (eating, etc.) causing a number of complex health issues. Personally speaking I can honestly say that isolation and loneliness is a horrible, scary emotion. ‘Outsiders’ looking in can be very critical of a teen’s situation; this starts with schools (teachers, etc.), community leaders (pastors, etc.) and close friends and family members. Without the support of immediate family and/or trusted adults teens may find themselves struggling in this area of emotion.
All teens experience a change socially upon finding out they are going to be mothers – pregnant teens are often excluded by their friends, from most teen activities. Often times, the mother become isolated, but the father of the child moves on with his life. The only solution to this problem is for teens (or those around them) to create a ‘new’ social atmosphere; this may include for example, support groups for pregnant teens and/or forming friendships with people who are reliable and will remain involved in their lives.
Teens and the Child Welfare System:
By the age of 19, one half of the teens in foster care become pregnant. As previously mentioned, children born to teen mothers are more likely to be placed in foster care. In fact, data shows that during the first five years of their lives the risk is 2.2 times higher compared to children born to mothers 20-21 years of age; delaying birth until at least 20-21 years of age would reduce the overall number of children being placed in foster care by 8%.
Historically, teen pregnancy has always been higher for Hispanics and African Americans; in 2007, the rate for Hispanic teens was nearly three times the rate of Caucasian teens, and the rate for African American teens was more than two times the rate of Caucasian teens.
Nationally, pregnancy for teens between that ages of 15 and 19 fell by 45%, from 223.8 per 1,000 to 122.7, between 1990 and 2005; however, there was an increase to 126.3 in 2006. To compare, the rate of pregnancies for Caucasian teens declined 50%, from 86.6 per 1,000 to 43.3, in the same period; in 2006, there was an increase to 44.0.
Considering the number of teens in larger states, it is expected that they would have a higher overall teen birth rate; although the rates are still too high, New Jersey is included in one of the 10 lowest states. ). Keep in mind that the data listed reflect birth rates; New Jersey and Pennsylvania were included in states with the highest abortion rates at 132-149 per 1,000 (this is a topic I plan to address in the future).
Data shows that the number of pregnancies has been increasing among teens and young women since 2005, but it is too soon to tell if there will be a reversal in the increase or if this is a short term fluctuation. There is still much research that need to be conducted as there are disparities in data that show rates by race and state; however, regardless of the disparities all of the data shows the pregnancy rates are several times higher among women of color.
Subsequent Pregnancies and Births among Teen Mothers
Folks 30 or older, stop for a second and think about the people that you know who have had children as teens, consider when they had their next child; was it within the first two to four years after their first child? Data shows that 24% of teen mothers have a second child within couple of years of having their first child; of those, 31% of them aged 16 or younger had a second child closely spaced to the first (this too is a topic that will be discussed in the future).
Data also shows that teens that quit school after giving birth are more likely to have a second child sooner than those that return to school after delivery of their first child. Some risk factors outside of dropping out of school include socioeconomic status, teens coming from poor families; and poor family structure.
The issues that arise with teen pregnancies are ultimately a burden on the mother, the children, their families, and society. There are many factors to consider when trying to determine the cause of, and how to eliminate teen pregnancy. Some of these factors include differences in socioeconomic factors such as income and education; risk behaviors such as sexual activity and lack in the use of contraceptives; and attitudes among teens toward pregnancy and childbearing.
The number of teen pregnancy appears to be back on the rise, which would imply that there is a need for a service to intervene and assist in ensuring that an already pregnant teen does not have another child immediately following the birth of their first child. There is also a need for a service that will attempt to prevent some of the risk factors that the unborn child or children will face if the teen does not receive any prior assistance.
That being said, we must not disregard the fact that much of what our children learn, the choices they make, and how they view life starts in the home. We are not 100% sure that our children will make the ‘right’ decisions all the time, but we all should feel comfort in knowing that we taught them well; that we were good examples as to how they should conduct themselves not only as children, teens and adolescents but also as adults.
We are asking for more programs to support the needs of pregnant teens; to help them address the many issues they may face; and to assist in ensuring they do not have more children prior to completing school and maintaining financial stability.
We also want to educate parents to the risks and possibilities of their children becoming teen parents with hopes to decrease the number of teens needing these programs. If the parent of a pregnant teen or a pregnant teen themselves have any questions regarding teen pregnancy, or need additional information on prenatal care, parenting classes, etc. please do not hesitate to contact us. If there is a pregnant teen who wishes to speak to someone who has been where they are, please do not hesitate to contact me.
People, it may start in the home but it takes a village. Let’s do what we can to support, care for, love and guide our teens!
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, MS