The Effects of Teenage Pregnancy


Autumn Cooley, Writer

Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring develop inside a women’s body. For women ages 20 and up, pregnancy can be a beautiful thing. Though this is not always the case, they could gain special attention from society, praise from peers, and most importantly, exceptional prenatal care. Due to the lack of prenatal care, the women’s pregnancies are less likely to go through issues such as premature birth, birth defects, low birth weight, etc. Although, girls ages 13, 14, typically 15 to 19, experience life differently. On a typical day in the life of a teenage girl, they are subject to not being held to the same level as their male counterparts, being looked down or talked down upon, making sure their clothes do not distract the opposite sex; the list could go on and on. And adding adolescent pregnancy only makes matters worse from a physical and mental aspect.

Every year, an estimated 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 years become pregnant in developing regions and approximately 12 million give birth to them. 16 million teenage girls within developed regions experience pregnancy. Despite high statistics, every year since 1991, there has been an 11.6% decline in teenage pregnancy.

Teenage mothers, usually younger than 15 years of age, are extremely vulnerable to anemia, or low blood iron, and pregnancy-related high blood pressure. Anemia is a low concentration of hemoglobin in the blood, which can cause extreme tiredness or other complications. Approximately 14% of pregnant women develop anemia, and the condition occurs at higher rates in pregnant adolescents because of “the insufficient amount of healthy caloric intake needed during pregnancy” as well as “the increased iron requirements associated with the expansion of the red cell mass during adolescence. Women from 20 to 44 are less likely to develop anemia unlike 15 to 19-year old’s.

Prenatal care is not always at a teenage mother’s disposal. And due to the lack of medical guidance, coupled with the fact they are more likely to drink, smoke, and take social drugs while pregnant than women over 25, this doubles the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby (less than 5.5lbs).

Nearly 10% of teenage mothers deliver a low-birth-weight baby. Unfortunately, these babies are more than twenty times likely to die within their first year of life.

The University of Pennsylvania did a study finding that premature babies weighing less than 4.5 lbs. at birth “are five times more likely than babies born at normal weight to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some develop infections or their infections or other illnesses in the first days of life, while others may suffer from long-term problems including learning disabilities or delayed motor and social development.

Gestational hypertension, or high blood pressure caused by pregnancy that can cause premature delivery or low birth weight of the baby. A premature baby would be born before 37 weeks, while a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks.

Most premature babies miss out on the important growth and development that takes place in the final weeks of pregnancy and often suffer health problems due to their organs not having sufficient time to develop. Problems such as Cerebral Palsy, breathing problems/Asthma, Feeding difficulties, serious intestinal problems, developmental delay, mental retardation, bleeding in the brain, vision problems or blindness, hearing problems, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), can be seen in premature babies.

No matter how mature or responsible a teenage girl is, there is no getting around that most teenage girls are not prepared to parent. This could accumulate mental health issues that could affect the mother and child.

Most girls ages 14 to 18 are in high school working to obtain their diploma to continue the next phase of their life, but as we all know, situations happen. The CDC reports, teenage girls that are pregnant are less likely to graduate from high school: Only about 50% receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, whereas approximately 90% of women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school. Less than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30.

There are various reasons why young mothers drop out of school, but one of the reasons could come from judgment from self and others. While walking through halls, these girls could be thinking of all the things people could be saying, which might not be the case. On the other hand, some people do judge teenage girls for gestation. From there, there could be physical and mental assault, neglect, and humiliation.

A study published in the Journal Pediatrics found that girls ranging from 15 to 19 experienced postpartum depression at a rate that was twice as high as women aged 25 and older. Another study reported that teen mothers face significant levels of stress that can then lead to increased mental health concerns.

In addition to high rates of postpartum, teenage mothers have high depression and suicidal rates.

Teenage mothers are more likely to fall into demographic categories that make the risk of mental illness higher. Having minor educated parents, history of child abuse, limited social networks, chaotic and unstable home environments, and living in low-income communities are can trigger lunacy.

Though the odds are not very high in the teenage mother’s favor, factors such as psychiatric help, a support system, and exceptional prenatal care could reduce stress levels which in return would reduce the chance of the baby being born a preemie or with disabilities/disorders. And would also ensure the mother’s safe and healthy delivery.