The Difficulties of Teen Pregnancy
Teen pregnancy is the term used when underage girls become pregnant. It usually refers to girls from 13 to 17. In most developed countries, incidence of teen pregnancy is relatively low when compared to underdeveloped countries. In many of the less developed and economically poorer regions, women marry and have babies at an earlier age. Among the more developed countries, the US and the UK have the highest percentage of teen pregnancies. There are, however, difficulties for all concerned when a teen becomes pregnant.
Several factors influence the chance of a girl becoming pregnant as a teen.
In less developed countries, many in sub-Saharan Africa, girls wed early in life and are often mothers before they are eighteen. This is the accepted norm for the area and no social stigma is associated with teen pregnancy under these conditions. In more developed countries, the US for example, girls do not generally wed until later in their twenties to early thirties. Teen aged girls who become pregnant are not normally wed and are often stigmatized by society as being promiscuous.
In the United States, the average age for girls to reach menarche (onset of their first menstrual cycle) is 12 ½ years old. This age has been getting steadily younger over the past few years. Even girls who have not had their first period can become pregnant, but ovulation is sporadic and follows no schedule or rhythm. After menarche, girls are considered sexually mature and are fertile.
Two other factors that seem to have a direct influence on teen pregnancy are poverty and poor education. Girls are ten times more likely to become pregnant as teens if they live below the poverty line than girls from affluent families. Lack of access to contraceptives is thought to be one reason for this. Availability of state aid to poor people based on the number of people in the household may be another contributing factor. Girls who are less educated about sexuality and socio – economic factors affecting their lives are more likely to become pregnant.
It was once thought that pregnancy caused more girls to drop out of secondary schools. New studies show that most girls who become pregnant and do not attend school were already out of school and those who are in school when they become pregnant tend to finish at least the secondary level of education. Many even go on to college.
Why do Teens Become Pregnant?
As previously stated, some areas of the world allow or encourage early marriage. Often, these areas are so economically disadvantaged that contraceptives are not available even if they were desired. Some cultures promote early pregnancy as a sign that a woman is fertile and view teen pregnancy as a good thing.
In other areas, where teen marriage is not the norm, a lack of available contraception and young people experimenting with sex at an earlier age seem to be major factors leading to teen pregnancy. A very large percentage of teen pregnancies in these areas are unplanned and often unwanted.
Teen Sexual Tendencies
Teens and adolescents are often curious about sex. In the US, a sort of double standard has long existed that calls for boys to have sex as often as possible and girls are supposed to abstain. The fact is that boys and girls are both curious and both capable of choosing to abstain from sexual behavior. Many teens who are sexually active have reported that they felt pressured by their friends or partners to have sexual relations before they were really ready. Illegal drug and alcohol use has been shown to lower inhibitions in teens and may contribute to many cases of unplanned sexual activity.
Teens may not have access to or knowledge of the available contraceptives in the US. Often, teen aged girls are too embarrassed to ask for information about contraceptives or to seek to acquire them. Sometimes, lack of knowledge leads to improper use of contraceptives, including condoms, that prevents them working properly to reduce the chances of getting pregnant.
Relative Ages of Sexual Partners
Recent studies have shown that teen pregnancies in more industrialized and developed countries are often the result of a serious mismatch in ages. Teen aged girls are dating older boys and, sometimes, men over the age of 20. This age gap often puts the girls at a disadvantage and they are pressured, if not out right forced, into having sexual relations.
In countries where teen marriages are not common, laws are in place that define an adult having sex with a teen as statutory rape, even if the sex is consensual, because the teens involved are not seen as mature enough to make an informed decision about sex and its possible outcomes. There are discrepancies from one location to another as to the legal age of consent where this would not be considered statutory rape.
A strong correlation has been made that links teenage pregnancies to sexual abuse and rape. Almost 60% of girls who had their first sexual experience before the age of 15 say that they were forced their first time. Roughly 10% of teen pregnancies are the direct result of rape. In addition, girls who have a history of being molested and abused sexually have been shown to be me likely to be sexually promiscuous in their teenaged years.
Studies show that over half of all teenaged mothers are or were in abusive relationships with the babies’ fathers at the time they conceived. Often, these boyfriends beat the girls and try to control every aspect of their lives. This behavior often intensifies once the pregnancy becomes known.
Girls who live in poverty have been shown to have increased rates of teen pregnancy compared to those of more affluent families. Lower incomes are often associated with a lack of education that limits the possibilities for young mothers.
Studies have been done that conclude that teens, both boys and girls, who witness or experience domestic violence in the home are more likely to become teen parents. Girls whose fathers leave the home when they are very young start having sex at a younger age and have a greater chance of becoming teenaged mothers. Teens in the foster care system are almost twice as likely to become teen parents as those in conventional homes.
Reducing the Occurrence of Teen Pregnancy
A debate continues to rage over whether providing teens with better education about human sexuality and contraceptive methods will reduce teen pregnancies or promote more promiscuous behavior in teens.
Most schools in the US have implemented some form of sex education course that covers the parts of the reproductive system, contraception, and possible medical problems associated with teen sex, including pregnancy and its complications and STDs. In almost all cases, abstinence is promoted as the only 100% safe method of contraception and disease prevention.
Medical Problems of Teen Pregnancy
Teens over the age of 15 are usually no more prone to medical complications than their older counterparts in their twenties. Those 14 or younger, however, have some pretty major risk factors because their pelvis regions are not fully developed and may not be wide enough to allow for normal birth. In developed countries, this can be dealt with by performing a c-section.
In less developed regions, the instances of infant mortality and women dying in child birth are much higher with young teens than with older women. Prenatal nutrition is also a major factor for younger teens whose bodies still require large amounts of some nutrients for their own growth, let alone that of a baby.
Social and Economic Problems of Teen Pregnancy
- Problems for the Mother
Most teen mothers already live in a state of poverty. Teen mothers are far less likely to pursue their education. This limits the number of careers open to these young mothers and greatly reduces their chances of ever getting out of poverty. The odds of another pregnancy occurring within the next 24 months are increased in teen mothers.
- Problems for the Child
Children born to teen mothers have been found to have a higher rate of learning disabilities and behavior problems in school. These children often are held back at least one grade in school and the drop out rate for children of teen mothers is much higher. One of the possible reasons for this poor academic performance is a lack of stimulation from the mother during the child’s infancy. Teen mothers often wish to continue their own lives and do care for the baby as they would have later in life.
- Problems for the Family
Younger siblings of a teen mother often look up to her and believe that the behaviors that made her a mother are perfectly acceptable. Younger brothers are more likely to get a girl pregnant at a young age. Younger sisters are more likely to begin having sex at a younger age and are less likely to use contraceptives. They also tend to place less value on getting an education and finding employment that would allow them to better their position in life.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms