9 Health Risks And Realities Of Teenage Pregnancy


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If you have a teen daughter at home, you know that her hormones are raging, and she exhibits erratic and confrontational behavior at times. These changes can sometimes be overwhelming, and rather detrimental. As a mom, you will understandably be worried about your little girl, who is growing up so rapidly. So you have to be prepared for anything and everything.

Teenage is the time when she will finally begin exploring her sexuality, and accidental pregnancy is a common side-effect of following through on her feelings. The most important thing you need to know is how to tackle the same, and ensure that your teen is aware of the risks of such a situation and she knows how to avoid it.

Teenage Pregnancy:

The health risks of teenage pregnancy will be significantly higher than what an adult woman will go through during her pregnancy. A pregnant teen and her unborn baby will face more health risks and will be at a higher risk of developing more complications later. Once a teen girl discovers that she is pregnant, she may be scared and worried about sharing it with anyone. It means that she may not be able to receive the medical care and treatment she should ideally get during her pregnancy months, which is known as prenatal care.

[ Read: Facts About Teen Pregnancy ]

What Are The Health Risks Associated With A Teenage Pregnancy?

The risks of teenage pregnancy are considerably high. Because a teen girl is still in the stage where her body is developing, becoming pregnant can cause a considerable amount of health risk to her as well as to the baby growing inside her. Here are some of the main health risk factors for teenage pregnancy:

1. Anemia:

  • Anemia is the condition in which there is a severe deficiency of iron in the body. Some other things that could also lead to anemia during pregnancy are a deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid in the body.
  • Another reason that could also lead to anemia during pregnancy is any blood disorders such as sickle cell diseases, which is often inherited.
  • Some of the most common signs of anemia are feeling tired all the time, feeling faint and dizzy, having difficulty in breathing or being short of breath, difficulty in concentrating, skin, lips and nails turning pale and very fast heartbeat.
  • Having anemia during pregnancy can lead to a preterm birth as well as low birth weight in the baby. It can also transfer to the unborn baby, in which case the baby may be born with anemia. Anemia at the time of pregnancy can also lead to various developmental delays in the baby that will be prominent through the growing up years (2).

2. High Blood Pressure:

  • Blood pressure is the force that is put against the walls of your arteries by the flow of blood. When the blood pressure level goes higher than 140 mm Hg systolic (the top number in the reading) or 90 mm Hg diastolic (the lower number in the reading), it means that it is a case of high blood pressure.
  • Having high blood pressure during the pregnancy months can be very dangerous for both the mother and the unborn baby. When you develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, it is also known as gestational hypertension.
  • The type of effect it will have on the pregnant teen and the unborn baby will depend on the severity of the condition and can range from mild to severe. The condition can damage the kidneys of the pregnant teen as well as other important organs.
  • It can also lead to a preterm birth as well as a low birth weight for the baby. In the most serious case, high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia, which can lead to life-threatening conditions for both the mother and the unborn baby (3).

[ Read: How Teenage Pregnancy Affect Personal Life ]

3. Premature Birth:

  • While not all premature births lead to complications, there are some very significant health risks associated with premature deliveries in general. When a baby is born before the due date, there can be complications with the baby’s breathing as the newborn’s respiratory system will not have developed properly.
  • If the baby’s lungs are still not able to expand properly, it can lead to a condition known as respiratory distress syndrome and cause more trouble in breathing. A premature baby is also at a high risk of contracting bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which is a type of chronic lung disease. Sometimes, the newborn may also develop a condition known as apnea, in which there is a pause in the baby’s breathing pattern.
  • Premature birth can also put the newborn at risk of various heart problems, the most common one being patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) as well as low blood pressure, also known as hypotension. Even though the heart disease may get well itself, if it is not treated on time, it can lead to life-threatening complications.
  • A premature birth also puts the baby at a high risk of suffering bleeding in the brain, a condition that is known as intraventricular hemorrhage. If the bleeding is more, it can lead to permanent brain injury.
  • Babies who are born prematurely have difficulties in adjusting their body temperatures, as they tend to lose body heat faster than babies who are born at the normal time. Also, premature babies do not have enough fat in their bodies that will help them to stay warm. It can lead them to a higher risk of getting hypothermia, in which case the temperature of their body will fall too low.
  • Hypothermia can cause further health complications in a premature baby, such as low levels of blood sugar and difficulty in breathing. Each time a premature baby feeds, almost all of the milk will go to keep the baby’s body temperature in control. As a result, the premature baby will not be able to gain any weight and may not be able to develop properly.
  • A premature baby also does not have a fully developed gastrointestinal system, which will be extremely weak and lack in immunity. As a result, the baby will be more prone to developing health complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which is a very serious health condition.
  • Babies who are born prematurely are also at a higher risk of developing anemia as well as infant jaundice.
  • Some other health issues that a premature baby is at a higher risk of developing are cerebral palsy, difficulties in hearing, problems in developing cognitive skills, difficulties with vision, problems with oral health, severe health issues as well as various psychological and behavioral problems (4).

4. Poor Nutrition:

  • As a teenage girl is still in the developing stages, her body will need a lot of nutrition to develop to its full potential.
  • If a teen girl falls pregnant, she will need lot more of the nutritious food that she would otherwise have needed for her growth and development, as her unborn baby will be dependent on her for nutrition too.
  • While some teen girls may be able to reach the required amount of weight that they should put on during their pregnancy, many are not able to do so.
  • Many teens are also very conscious about their body weight and often fall into the trap of eating disorders. If a teen is going through any eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, it can be very dangerous for her health as well as the health of the unborn baby.

[ Read: Nutrition For Pregnant Teens ]

5. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs):

  • As teenagers go through a lot of raging hormones, they are also at an age where they experiment with their sexuality and are open to experiment with multiple partners.
  • If a teen girl has sex once she is pregnant, she may be at a high risk of developing some or the other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
  • STDs can be very harmful to the pregnant teen’s health as well as for the health of the unborn baby.

6. Depression:

  • Many women who are pregnant go through depression, and it can be even more prominent in a teen girl. As the hormones are still going through a lot of changes in the teenage years, the hormonal chaos of pregnancy can add a lot of extra stress to the same. As a result, a teen girl who is pregnant can be at an extremely high risk of being overcome with depression.
  • While most bouts of depression may be easily cured with some love and support from the family; severe depression can be dangerous, especially if the teen develops suicidal thoughts or tries to harm herself.
  • Also, depression is not always easy to spot in a teen who is already battling so many hormonal changes, and the mood may come across as simple teenage moodiness. If a pregnant teen is depressed and does not take proper care of herself, it can cause severe health issues in the unborn baby too.
  • Also, teen girls love to go out and mix with friends, but once they are pregnant, it will be difficult for them to continue the social life that they love or are used to. Not being able to be with friends and enjoy the way they earlier did could also make them feel lonely and lead to depression.

7. Improper Care:

  • In many cases, a teenage girl may not be aware of the best way to use protection while having sex.
  • As a result, she may not always be sure of whether or not she is pregnant, especially as she may be confusing the same signs and symptoms with that of her usual teenage years.
  • Prenatal care is extremely important for the health of both the mother and baby, but if your teen girl is not aware of it, she will miss out on important tests, medications and vaccinations. As a result, it could cause sufficient health issue in both the pregnant teen as well as the unborn baby.

8. Toxemia, which is blood poisoning by toxins from a local bacterial infection.

9. Placenta previa, which is a condition where the placenta partially or fully blocks the neck of the uterus, which interferes with normal deliver.

What Are The Signs That Your Teen Is Pregnant?

While most symptoms of pregnancy are often the same, there may be some variation in how a pregnancy shows up in a teen girl. Here are some common signs and symptoms that will help you to spot a pregnancy in your teen daughter, even before she may herself be aware of the fact that she is pregnant:

  • Not having her monthly menstrual periods on time.
  • Need to urinate too frequently.
  • Sudden change in food preference or aversion to foods and tastes that your teen earlier enjoyed.
  • Sudden interest in new foods and tastes that your teen may earlier have not liked at all.
  • Feeling a sudden bout of nausea on smelling certain smells, especially those of certain foods.
  • Tenderness or soreness on the breasts when touching.
  • Heaviness in the breasts.
  • Feeling extremely tired and sleepy even when your teen is well rested and has slept.
  • Sudden increase in appetite or does not want to eat at all.
  • Frequent mood swings.

[ Read: Impact Of Teenage Pregnancy On Community ]

How Can You Reduce The Health Risks In A Teen Pregnancy?

If your teen girl is pregnant, there are few things you need to keep in mind that hers as well as the unborn baby’s health are in good shape. Make sure you take care of the following points:

1. Get Her Prenatal Care As Soon As The Pregnancy Is Confirmed:

Once your teen girl’s pregnancy is confirmed, take her to the doctor immediately. The doctor will check your teen’s weight and will check her overall health to look for any signs of distress or other health complications. The doctor will also be able to tell you how to take care of your teen girl through the following months of pregnancy and what all tests and appointments to go for.

2. Make Sure She Stays Away From Alcohol, Smoking, Drugs Or Any Other Harmful Substances:

As a teen, your young girl may be involved in various social activities that may have brought her in the presence of smoking, drinking and other drugs. Once she is pregnant, it is important that she stays away from all such activities, as it can be extremely harmful to her health and causes severe medical complications in her unborn baby as well.

3. Give Unconditional Emotional Support:

Your teen girl may not have expected that she would get pregnant at this age and the news of the pregnancy will be like a shock to her. As much as you may be trying to understand how best to handle the situation yourself, do remember that your teen girl needs all the love and support you can give her. Take time out to sit with her and ease her many fears and concerns. Talk to her about what the coming months will be like and how her body will change. Tell her about how her unborn baby will be developing through the coming months and how she is the only one who can take care to ensure the baby is fine and grows properly.

4. Make Sure She Takes Her Supplements:

Once you take your teen girl to the doctor for the first prenatal visit, your doctor will most likely suggest a few supplements that your teen should take. The doctor may give a vitamin A supplement that will also have some folic acid in it, or may give a separate supplement that contains folic acid. Make sure that you help your teen girl to remember when to take her supplements each day. Not having enough folic acid during the months of pregnancy can lead to severe birth defects in the unborn baby as well as other health issues.

[ Read: Reasons For Abortions In Teenagers ]

Understanding Your Teen’s Emotions On Being Pregnant:

As a mother, you may feel sad, upset and betrayed when you know that your teen girl is pregnant. However, it is very important that you take your teen’s emotional condition into account and give it more priority than your feelings. Here are a few emotional reactions that your teen may have when she first learns that she is pregnant:

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Depression or feeling of loneliness.
  • Excitement
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiousness
  • Disappointment
  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment

Here are a few options that your teen girl may look at regarding her baby once she learns that she is pregnant:

1. Becoming A Single Mother To Raise The Baby:

Your teen may surprise you with her determination when she announces that she wants to be a single mother and raise the baby without its father. While you may or may not agree with her decision, it is important for you to understand that you should respect her feelings towards her baby. Your teen may still be too young to understand the implications of what might follow and the responsibility that is associated with raising a baby, especially alone. Speak to your teen and tell her the advantages and disadvantages of being a single parent, especially at such a young age.

2. Your Teen May Decide To Marry The Baby’s Father:

While that is surely a possible and logical option, you have to take into account the fact that your teen is too young to get married. Also, the father of the baby may or may not be the right choice for your teen girl. As a parent, you will have to first meet the father of the baby and decide for yourself whether it is a good decision to let your teen girl marry him or is she better off without him. There are a few factors that you will have to keep in mind before letting your teen make a decision. Some factors that you should ask your teen to consider are the age of both your teen and the father of the baby.

3. Adoption:

Depending on your teen’s mood, she may also think of giving up her baby for adoption. While this can be a painful thing, it may sometimes be the best choice. Adoption is a sensitive topic and will best be decided by your teen and you as a family.

4. Abortion:

If your teen is not capable of going through the pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby, mainly due to her health reasons, your doctor will inform you of the same and may ask for abortion. Also, if you do find out about the pregnancy in its earliest stages and your teen does not wish to go ahead with it, she may speak to the doctor about abortion. Depending on whether your state laws permit the same, you can think of this option as well.

[ Read: How Does Peer Pressure Influence Teen Pregnancy ]

Becoming pregnant is one of the greatest joys but it does have its own right time. A teenage pregnancy can be fraught with risks that can be damaging to the health of both the teen mother and the unborn baby. However, once your teen girl is pregnant, you have to make sure that she is in the best of health and gets all her medical things taken care of.

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