The teen birth rate in the US has been on a decline for almost a decade. Yet, compared to other industrialized countries, it is still astronomically high. Teenage preganancies in the US seem even worse when considering that most of these pregnancies are outside wedlock and unplanned.
A large number of unplanned pregnancies is a concern for any society, irrespective of the mother’s age. With unplanned teenage pregnancies, the risks are even worse as most teen mothers receive delayed prenatal care. Some don’t receive any prenatal care at all.
The Unavoidable Statistics
The US continues to have the highest teen pregnancy rates amongst all western industrialized countries. Recent CDC reports suggest that around three out of ten girls in the country get pregnant before reaching the age of twenty. That’s over 750,000 teen pregnancies in the US every year.
Do children in the US have different sexual behaviors compared to teens in other developed countries? No. Research suggests that teenage girls from the US don’t use contraception as much as teenage girls from other developed countries. It is no wonder that the US has the second-highest teen pregnancy among all the forty-six ‘developed’ countries globally. Here are some, even more, scarier stats related to teenage pregnancies –
- 25% of teen mothers have a second child just 24 months after their first pregnancy.
- Motherhood is the chief reason for teen mothers dropping out of high school. Over 50% of these teenagers don’t return to graduate from high school. Only 2% of teen mothers go on to earn college degrees (before turning thirty).
- Over 50% of all the mothers in the USA who are currently depending on welfare, report having their first child when they were teenagers. Over 67% of families headed by unmarried teen mothers fall below the poverty line.
- 80% of teen fathers don’t marry the mothers of their children.
Any sexually active teenage girl not using contraceptives can become pregnant within six to twelve months of having regular sex. Since the 90s, the use of condoms and hormonal contraceptives has vastly increased. On the other hand, practices like abstinence have dropped massively. Obstetricians and gynecologists fear that this downward trend can reverse any time given that the average American teenager gets hypersexualized via media exposure at a very young and inappropriate age.
What Happens After Teenage Pregnancy?
Inappropriate Natal Care
According to many obstetricians and gynecologists, close to 40% of teen pregnancies in the US end in abortion. Teen girls who opt to deliver face a much higher risk of experiencing complications during childbirth. One of the main reasons behind these complexities is the inability to seek prenatal care on time. Be it fear of parents, social anxiety, or a lack of awareness – most pregnant teenagers fail to take the steps a mother generally would and should immediately after getting pregnant. Hence, these unprepared pregnant teens end up:
- Failing to report the pregnancy on time.
- She is unable to reach a healthy weight to prepare the body for pregnancy.
- Engaging in smoking, drinking, physically straining activities, and other harmful practices.
- Not consuming certain vitamins or minerals that are vital for maintaining health during pregnancy. Not consuming these nutrients increases the risk of getting diseases like anemia, blood pressure, etc.
That’s why babies born to pregnant teens are more often than not premature, underweight, and cognitively challenged in many cases. In physical and cognitive tests, children born of planned pregnancies outperform unplanned babies born to pregnant teenagers. Most states have specific health clinics where professional prenatal care is offered for free. Teenagers need to know about these facilities so that they can equip themselves for unprecedented circumstances.
After the Birth
In addition to fetus-related health problems, pregnant teens who decide to give birth have even more trouble raising their children. Surprisingly, the number of teenage mothers who choose adoption is very low. More teen mothers prefer dropping out of high school to either get married or raise the children as single mothers. Such decisions only seem noble as most kids in these situations end up living in dire poverty. In most instances, teenage mothers just don’t have the ability to provide for their young children. Most of them have very low or no income. These factors drive them to welfare assistance. More teen fathers finish high school than mothers. Even then, a majority of them land low-paying jobs that aren’t sufficient enough to adequately provide for the child in question.
Exposure to Drugs
Increasing substance abuse amongst teenagers makes the prospect of teenage pregnancies even scarier. In 2018, close to 700,000 teenagers were illegally exposed to opioids. Over 10,000 American high-school children report using heroin every year. That’s one out of every fifteen high-school seniors! The use of sedatives, narcotics, alcohol, and other hard drugs is so common that it puts the average pregnant teenager at a massive risk. These substances are highly unsafe for pregnant women. Even smoking cigarettes can heighten the risk of complications during deliveries, such as premature births.
- Premature birth is often accompanied by risks of brain damage and severe physical incapacities.
- Globally, pregnancy-related medical complications are the number one cause of mortality for teen girls aged fifteen to nineteen.
- According to a WHO report, teen mothers face significantly higher risks of puerperal endometritis (uterine infection). Compared to women in their mid-twenties, the rate of systemic infections is three times higher for pregnant teenagers.
Every year, approximately 3.9 million risky abortion procedures are carried out to aid girls aged fifteen to nineteen. Teenage girls who opt for abortion suffer from countless long-lasting health problems like maternal mortality, depression, morbidity, etc. The ones who decide to keep the baby usually end up staying in the hospital for long periods, increasing their chances of contracting infections, or experiencing other health issues. Such lengthy and complicated stays can take a toll on any teen mother. The increased stress is very unhealthy for the teen mother and the unborn child.
The Child’s Health
Teenage pregnancy is just as risky for newborns as it is for teen mothers. Typically, children who are born to teen moms are more likely to experience birth weight issues among other neonatal conditions. The severity of these risks intensifies if the teen mom is forced to go through multiple pregnancies in a short period.
What Can Parents Do to Prevent Teen Pregnancy?
Most obstetricians and gynecologists agree that national campaigns or awareness projects don’t impact teenage girls. Education regarding teenage pregnancy from the parents, on the other hand, is far more effective. Here’s what parents should do to avoid teenage pregnancies.
- Set clear ideas regarding sexual values.
- Instead of telling teenage girls how to feel about sexual activities, parents should ask their children how they feel about the topic.
- Differentiate sex and love as two different concepts as honestly as possible. Contrary to belief, parents talking to children about sexual topics doesn’t make children more sexual. Instead, children frame clear ideas about the topic as they trust the information coming from a reliable source.
- Give the children varying points of view. Explain to them taboo topics like – sexually transmitted diseases, responsible sex, the importance of using contraceptives, etc. These conversations shouldn’t scare the teenager from the idea of having sex. Instead, they should understand that having sexual desires is completely normal. Teens getting pregnant isn’t.
- Have a clear understanding of the child’s friends who create a strong influence on them. Choosing friends with similar value systems is vital for keeping a child away from these topics.
- Parents should not encourage their children to get involved in dating so early. They must also establish the need to date someone of their own age. Dating significantly older people shouldn’t be tolerated in the house.
- Emphasize the educational cost of engaging in sexual activities from a young age.
- Control the type of media the kids can access; using age-filters on social media sites is a good way to stop young teenagers from accessing the wrong websites.
- Supervise the child’s activities on the internet. As children get more and more enamored by technology, parents must extend their role as a full-time guardian as watchdogs to prevent them from wrong types of exposure.
How Using Technology Can Help?
To control their child’s internet use and keep their child from harm, parents should consider using parental control apps such as MMGuardian.
MMGuardian has been designed to allow parents to be as hands on or off as is necessary for their child. The Web Filter allows parents to be in completely control over what website and website categories their child can visit, no matter what browser they’re using, as well as view all of their browsing history. In addition, parents are able to view all of their child’s SMS, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and TikTok text messages, and parents will be alerted if concerning messages are detected on the child’s phone based on categories such as pregnancy, sexting, violence, inappropriate pictures, predators, and many others. Parents will also have access to an extensive range of other features such as location, app blocking, contact blocking and much more. To try out MMGuardian and receive a 14 day free trial, just click the button below!
Consider also joining our Facebook group “Tech-Savvy Parenting” to discuss raising kids in the 21st century with other parents.
Children shouldn’t feel reluctant to communicate. Parents must also take proactive steps when dealing with serious matters, such as providing their children with access to timely birth control options. Ultimately, reducing with unexpected teen pregnancy will improve our society.