Teenage pregnancy a global problem that occurs in high, middle, and low income countries. Around the world, teenage pregnancies are more likely to occur in marginalized communities, commonly driven by poverty and lack of education and employment opportunities
For some teenage pregnancy and childbirth are planned and wanted. In some contexts, girls may face social pressure to marry and, once married, to have children. Each year, about 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 years, and 90% of births to girls aged 15 to 19 years occur within marriage. For many teenage pregnancy and childbirth are neither planned nor wanted.
Teenage pregnancy is pregnancy in human female under the age of 20 at the time that the pregnancy ends. A pregnancy can take place after the start of puberty before first menstrual period, usually occur after the onset of the period. Teen pregnancy is an important issue for several reasons. For example, there are health risks for the baby and children born to teenage mothers are more likely to suffer health, social, and emotional problems than children born to older mothers. Also, women who become pregnant during their teens are at increased risk for medical complications, such as premature labor, and social consequences .
In some cultures, customs and traditions lead to early marriage which would therefore lead to early pregnancy. In these cases, pregnancy is acceptable and is most often intentional, however they are occurring in developing countries such as India and Sub-Saharan Africa. In developed countries however, teenage pregnancy is most often unintentional and due to a variety of different reasons.
Drugs and Alcohol
During adolescence, teenagers may drink and experiment with drugs frequently with their friends at social gatherings and parties. Teens, however, do not realize the impacts alcohol and drugs have on the functioning of their brain, especially the effects of binge drinking which is consuming large amounts of alcohol during one sitting. Drinking excessively as well as experimenting drugs may lead to unwanted and unintentional pregnancy. These substances greatly affect a teens ability to logically think and carry out general thinking processes, thus increases the chances they will engage in unprotected and unsafe sexual activity.
Low Socio-economic Status
Teens who become pregnant often come from families of low socio-economic status. Growing up, these children often come from families who are suffering from poverty and do not have all the necessary resources to raise their child. These children grow up to have low educational goals and successes because of the lack of involvement from their own parents. These young kids then predisposed to a negative environment end up with less ambition to succeed in school and begin making friendships with other teens who are going through similar situations as them. It is these groups of teens who begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol and do not do very well in school.
With their lack of education and knowledge about reproduction, these teens engage in unprotected and unsafe sexual activity. These teens do not know about the available contraceptives nor do they explore their options. Even if the teenagers have some form of contraception they are using them incorrectly which makes them useless during sexual activity. These teens simply engage in intercourse at very young ages, and may have multiple partners which further leads to increased chances of pregnancy.
Peer Pressure and Sexual Abuse
Peer pressure is another major cause of sexual abuse, often females may be pressured or forced by an older male partner to engage in sexual activity. These young females out of fear may feel forced to engage in unprotected sex without a choice
Peer pressure may also be prevalent in a different form while in relationships teenagers may be pressured by their partner to have unsafe and unprotected sex in order to express their "love" and "true feelings" for their partner. The partner may manipulate the other to have unprotected sex which leads to unintended pregnancy
The media has a large effect on teen pregnancy, especially shows such as "Teen Mom " and " 16 and Pregnant ". These shows often glamorize pregnancy and hide the true hardships associated with pregnancy which encourages these teens to become pregnant. Some teenage females become pregnant just so they are able to drop out of high school or to force their partners into a deeper commitment. These televisions glorify the idea of having a child through the promotion of these teenagers having a more adult lifestyle, with more responsibility and decision-making power.
Effects of Teenage pregnancy
Due to becoming pregnant during adolescence, teen mothers are very likely to drop out of school because of their low ambitions and dedication to getting an education. About 38% of female teens who have a child before the age of 18 hardly complete their high school education by that age. This means that a very high percentage of teen mothers will not even go on to graduate from high school let alone pursue post-secondary education.
In light of this, these young girls do not have full qualifications for proper jobs in the future, which leads to having a job with very low wages or even worse, unemployment. Further, this leads to poor living conditions and the inability to maintain a safe and clean environment for their newborn child. These young women often end up living on welfare and do not have adequate resources for their child. Overall, these young girls are forced to delay and postpone any plans for their future in order to raise their child.
Another issue associated with teen pregnancy is the young mother is often forced to essentially give up her identity for a new one while switching into a maternal role. These young mothers go through many physical changes: from teenage physical adjustment to having to adapt to the ever changing shape of her body through the pregnancy and her postpartum figure.
Teens are often forced to become reliant on their family for financial resources as well as support to help get her through raising a child. In some cases, teens are shunned by their parents and do not even receive any support from their parents who are not accepting of the pregnancy. These young girls are often forced to lose contact with friends and others in their social groups in order to focus on their pregnancy
Pregnant teens often do not have the proper healthy habits in order to go through a successful child rearing process. These mothers thus have heightened health risks, which inhibits healthy child development. Young women can suffer from things such as anemia as well as blood pressure which is only possible during pregnancy These mothers often smoke and drink because they are not properly educated on the child rearing process.
Having a child during these essential years truly clashes with the developmental tasks that should be occurring during teens. These young mothers are unable to fully develop a sense of self-identity because of their new role as an expecting mother. Further, peer and social relationships are strained or even terminated and teen years are essentially for developing relationships with others and discovering oneself.
The child of a teen mother is very likely to live in poverty because of its mother’s lack of financial resources. Essentially, the birth of this child becomes the beginning of a perpetual cycle in many cases. The child is likely to endure many of the same issues its mother did in her childhood. For instance, the child is likely to grow up in poverty and in very poor conditions. They are likely to be missing a father figure, leaving them with fewer role models and increased chances of confiding in other children in the same situation. The children's academic success is also further compromised and these children do not strive to achieve much academically. Furthermore, these kids have social problems and are unable to make friends very easily which leads to poor relationship development which is a crucial stage in teenagers. Poor relationship development can be linked to the child being deprived economically as well as educationally. The children are likely to drop out of high school and also succumb to the use of drugs and alcohol due to lack of parental involvement and monitoring. The cycle is very likely to repeat itself over and over.
The children are often also likely to suffer health risks in comparison to those born to adults. They are likely to be cognitively impaired and also susceptible to behavioral issues. The children are likely to be born underweight and prematurely, which is detrimental to their health and may even result in infant mortality [5Assisting Teenage Parents and Prevention
There are many negative factors associated with teens who become pregnant, however there are some factors that increase the likelihood of making these teens more suitable for parenthood.
Teenage pregnancy remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality, and to intergenerational cycles of ill-health and poverty. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death among 15 to 19 year-old girls globally, with low and middle-income countries accounting for 99% of global maternal deaths of women ages 15 to 49 years.
Teenage mothers (ages 10 to 19 years) face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, and systemic infections than women aged 20 to 24 years. Additionally, some 3.9 million unsafe abortions among girls aged 15 to 19 years occur each year, contributing to maternal mortality and lasting health problems. Furthermore, the emotional, psychological and social needs of pregnant teenage girls can be greater than those of other women.
Early childbearing can increase risks for newborns, as well as young mothers. In low- and middle-income countries, babies born to mothers under 20 years of age face higher risks of low birthweight, preterm delivery, and severe neonatal conditions. Newborns born to teenage mothers are also at greater risk of having low birth weight, with long-term potential effects.5 In some settings, rapid repeat pregnancy is a concern for young mothers, which presents further risks for both the mother and child.
Economic and social consequences
Teenage pregnancy can also have negative social and economic effects on girls, their families and communities. Unmarried pregnant teenagers may face stigma or rejection by parents and peers and threats of violence. Similarly, girls who become pregnant before age 18 are more likely to experience violence within marriage or a partnership. With regards to education, school-leaving can be a choice when a girl perceives pregnancy to be a better option in her circumstances than continuing education, or can be a direct cause of pregnancy or early marriage. An estimated 5% to 33% of girls ages 15 to 24 years who drop out of school in some countries do so because of early pregnancy or marriage.
Based on their subsequent lower education attainment, may have fewer skills and opportunities for employment, often perpetuating cycles of poverty: child marriage reduces future earnings of girls by an estimated 9%. Nationally, this can also have an economic cost, with countries losing out on the annual income that young women would have earned over their lifetimes, if they had not had early pregnancies.
What can be done?
From a young age, it is important that young children and teenagers have a reliable and trustworthy adult to confide in. Having an approachable and knowledgeable role model or adult in your life will greatly decrease the chances of teen pregnancy. Parents often neglect explaining the anatomy of the body to their children, however providing this information and educating children during their youth is an extremely important protective factor against teen pregnancy.
Children need to grow up having a positive self-image as well as a healthy environment to grow up in. Children need unconditional love and support from their parents as it is critical in ensuring the child makes better choices about their future sexual activity. Having love from one's parents ensures that these teenagers are not left feeling unwanted from parents who are very passive and uninvolved.
Open communication and time spent with children is a protective factor against teen pregnancy also. Children and teens should be able to approach their parents and ask for their time whenever in need. Developing a strong relationship between child and parent is critical. These children are more likely to use birth control or other contraceptives and make better decisions in regards to sexual behaviors.
DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT
UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST
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