While a total of 229,715 babies were born to US-based mothers aged between 15 and 19 in the year 2015, teenage pregnancy rates have been declining for a long time now. This is good news, because the decline in teen pregnancies can be largely attributed to a combination of more teens deciding to wait until later to have sex and more teens using birth control. Having a baby doubtlessly features rather high on the list of "most important things a person will do in their life", so having a say in the timing can certainly only be welcomed!
Teenage pregnancy still happens, of course, and once it does, you can only deal with the situation at hand. All while figuring out what you should do next, people — whether online or in person — will offer their own opinions or even attempt to shove them down your throat, ranging from "kids shouldn't be having kids; just have an abortion", to "this is God's blessing", and everything in between. It's ultimately you, however, who has to decide what you should do.
Teenage Pregnancy: Your Options
So, you've taken the pregnancy test (positive!) and perhaps followed up with a doctor, and there's no doubt — you really are pregnant. Depending on where you live, you may have three different options at your disposal: parenting, adoption, and abortion. Each of these will come with their own sub-set of questions to answer, such as;
- Abortion: Do I have access to safe termination of pregnancy? Where can I get an abortion? Do my parents have to know about it? If abortion is not legal where you live or you otherwise do not have access to a safe abortion, what are your options — such as traveling outside your jurisdiction or accessing abortion within your own jurisdiction?
- Adoption: What are your options? Can you choose the adoptive parents yourself? Are ethical adoption agencies available? Does the government need to become involved? Can you choose to have an open adoption should you be most comfortable with that option, and if so, is it legally enforceable?
- Parenting: Will you have a support network? What financial support is available to you through government and other means? What arrangements will you need to make over the course of your pregnancy to prepare for life with a baby?
Because SteadyHealth is an international website with readers all over the world, and pregnant teenagers across the globe will find themselves in radically different situations, we can't give you advice on specific steps to take next. If you are reading this, you have an internet connection, however, and it might be crucial in helping you decide what to do next — whether that is securing a medically safe abortion, researching adoption options, or looking into government grants and housing vouchers for young parents.
If you decide to stay pregnant, you will need to research prenatal care as well. The sooner you are under the care of a qualified healthcare professional, the better. Regardless of what you do next, emotional support will be crucial at this time, and if you have a supportive shoulder or two to cry on and plan with, I suggest you make ample use of it.
The Medical Risks Of Teenage Pregnancy
As a pregnant teenager, you have a higher risk of preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening complications characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine that can only be "cured" by delivering the baby. The risk is particularly high if you are under 16, and this means you will need quality prenatal care.
You also have higher odds of having a low birth weight infant as well as infant death around the time of the birth. This likewise means you need quality prenatal care, which any pregnant woman should be receiving anyway. If you live in a less developed country, your own health and life may also be at greater risk.
Though these are things to be aware of, they do not mean that you cannot have a health pregnancy and safe delivery. Those pregnant teenagers who decide to stay pregnant should read up about what they can do to enjoy a healthy pregnancy, such as taking prenatal vitamins and refraining from smoking and drinking.
The Social Risks Of Teenage Pregnancy And Parenthood
World Health Organization data suggests that teenage parents face a risk of social stigma and rejection. Coming at a crucial time in your life, a time when you would strongly benefit from more, not less, support, this is a tough predicament to be facing. One aspect of the social risks of teenage parenthood is also that young mothers are more likely to encounter partner violence than older mothers.
Economically, statistics indicate that teen mothers are likely to drop out of school early, resulting in a lower income potential that may last your whole life.
As "doom and gloom" as this all sounds, I'm not here to discourage you from walking this path if you are already pregnant — though I'd certainly advise you against purposely trying to conceive at a young age. What I would do is advise you to commit to staying in school if at all possible, as this will help you gain the financial independence that will serve you and your child well for the rest of both your lives, no matter where in the world you live. People all across the globe have been having babies and are continuing to have babies, and regardless of their age, financial security and emotional and practical support help them thrive. If you have them, so can you.
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