The Problems With Teen Pregnancy

By Angela Atkinson
Image Credit: Jason Nelson/sxc.hu

Teen pregnancy and parenting cause many negative effects on the parents, grandparents, and babies in these situations. According to The Women's Health Channel, 1 million American teens become pregnant, while 175,000 give birth to their first child. The high rate of teen pregnancy has become a national issue that we can no longer ignore.

Identification

Teen pregnancy is generally defined as pregnancy occurring in a young woman between the ages of 13 and 17, or in anyone who is not legally considered an adult. However, approximately 67 percent of first-time teen moms are 18 and 19 years old. The National Center for Health Statistics says that four in 10 American women become pregnant before reaching the age of 20, giving the United States the highest teen pregnancy rate among similarly developed countries. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that one in 15 men will father a child before the age of 20.

Effects

Planned Parenthood estimates that more than 80 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended. There are negative implications for teen moms in relation to teen pregnancy. For mothers the pregnancy related death rate is increased for those giving birth before the age of 15. Plus, because their bodies are still developing, teen moms are more likely to experience dehydration and undernourishment after a long or intense labor. Seven out of 10 teen moms are unlikely to receive prenatal care during the first three months of pregnancy. Those at risk for drug and alcohol abuse or smoking cigarettes are more likely to have pregnancy complications.

Considerations

There are also several negative implications for babies born to teen moms. For one, teen moms are less likely to gain the required amount of weight during pregnancy, whether intentionally or otherwise. This can lead to low birth weight, which can cause significant issues for the baby. Babies born with a low birth weight are more likely to have underdeveloped organs. This can cause respiratory issues, heart problems, intestinal problems, bleeding in the brain and even death. Teen moms also are less likely to receive prenatal care than their older counterparts. According to the American Medical Association, babies born to moms who didn't receive prenatal care are four times more likely to die before their first birthday.

Function

Health risks aside, children born to teen moms are at increased risk for other problems, including those affecting them socially, emotionally and physically. First, babies born to teen parents are at a higher risk for physical and emotional abuse, especially in situations where the parents don't receive family support. Teen parents are also less likely to have the knowledge and resources available to them to provide adequate nutrition and health care. Children born to teen parents may receive less intentional social and developmental stimulation than children born to older parents, putting them at higher risk for poor academic performance.

Significance

Baby boys born to teen moms are at increased risk for incarceration later in their lives, while girls born to teens are more likely to become teen moms themselves. Plus more than two thirds of teen parents don't graduate from high school, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy. According to a 2002 report by doctors Kristine Miranne and Alma Young, at least 80 percent of teen moms are on some form of public assistance, costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year. This combined with the need for foster care and involvement with the criminal justice system bring the taxpayer's share up to around $6 billion per year in the United States.

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