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Do you know the early signs of a pregnancy? Have you chosen a contraceptive method? Or are you already pregnant and looking into your options? Read on to find out more about teen pregnancy, its risks, and the options if you do become pregnant.

How many teens get pregnant?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, around seven percent of teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 got pregnant in the United States in 2006. Concretely, 75,000 teens become pregnant. Teenage pregnancy rates have been going down in the United States in recent years. Across the pond, 38,259 girls 18 or younger got pregnant in 2009 in England and Wales. Teen pregnancy rates have been dropping over there, too. Almost half of British teenagers who got pregnant decided to have an abortion. In Canada, meanwhile, the birth or abortion rate was 27.9 per 1,000 teenagers in 2010. Again, there is a clear trend away from teenage pregnancy here. In Australia, that rate is quite a lot higher, at 43.7 per 1,000.

What are the risks?

Teenage pregnancies pose unique health risks. This makes adequate prenatal care even more important than it is for other pregnancies. Unfortunately, many teens do not seek proper prenatal care until much later into a pregnancy. They may not know they are pregnant, could be in denial, or actively hiding the fact that they are expecting a baby from parents and relatives. The first trimester of pregnancy is crucial for the baby, as internal organs and the brain are forming at this point. Teens who were not eating a healthy diet when they got pregnant, and especially those who were drinking alcohol and smoking, are less likely to have a healthy pregnancy. Teenagers who are pregnant have a higher chance of suffering from certain pregnancy complications.

Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, for example, is more likely to strike teens. Many pregnant teenagers are at risk of sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea as well. These diseases can be transmitted to the baby, and can become fatal in some cases. Premature birth and babies with a low birth weight are another risk of teenage pregnancy. Finally, teenagers who became pregnant unexpectedly will face a lot of turbulence in their life. They will almost certainly feel isolated, scared, and lonely.

Those who decide to terminate their pregnancy will have to deal with grief and perhaps regret. Those who decide to carry their pregnancy to term and become a teenage mom will have a lot of uncertainty. They may have to make hard decisions about finishing or not finishing their education, and will have to have difficult conversations with their baby's father and their parents. Psychological care may be just as important as medical care during a teenage pregnancy. Counseling options are available at no cost in most western countries.

Signs of teenage pregnancy

How do you recognize a teenage pregnancy? Typical pregnancy signs and symptoms include:

  • A missed period
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Morning sickness
  • Tender breasts
  • Mood swings
  • A positive pregnancy test

For more information about the symptoms of pregnancy, look at our pregnancy signs page. Your options If you are a teenager, and just discovered you are pregnant, shock may be your first reaction. You now have three options carrying the pregnancy to term to parent your baby, continuing your pregnancy and placing your child for adoption, or undergoing an abortion.

Difficulties may lie ahead regardless of which decision you ultimately make. One thing is certain; this is not a decision that you should make right away. Allow the shock of discovering you are pregnant to pass, talk to friends, the father of the baby if you can, to your parents, and perhaps a therapist. If you choose to parent your baby, you will need to ally with your baby's father, your parents, other relatives, or anyone else who can be supportive and help you plan the future. Decisions about your education and other plans for the future are ahead of you. If you have help and support, it will be much easier.

Being a teenage parent isn't easy, but the pregnancy and those first couple of hard years will pass. If you are considering placing your child for adoption, you have many different possibilities. Open adoption, closed adoption, or kinship adoption may all be options for you. Do see an independent counselor if you are thinking of taking this road. Adoption agencies often provide counseling, but remember that they are for-profit companies that make money from adoption.

Adoption is the right choice for some, but make sure you have thought about it thoroughly. Open adoption is not always as open as you may think, so talk to a lawyer before you place your child as well. Those who decide that terminating their pregnancy is the right choice will still feel conflicted and sad. In this case, too, talking to a therapist may help you work through your feelings and deal with your grief.

Preventing teen pregnancy

An unwanted pregnancy can happen to anyone, whether they are a teenager or a 40-year old mother of four. Birth control methods such as the contraceptive pill, the Mirena coil, or depo Provera can be very reliable to prevent pregnancy. If you think you may forget to take the pill at times, long-term contraceptives like an IUD and depo Provera may be your best ally. Do remember that only condoms also prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

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