Social Effects of Teen Pregnancy

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social effects teen pregnancy feature

Social Effects of Teen Pregnancy

Two blue lines. I’m shaking as I unwrap another pregnancy test. I bought only what I could afford from the pharmacy, which was exactly two at-home pregnancy tests. Now I have one minute to wait. This is definitely the longest minute of my life. The result is … pregnant, again. Great, I’m officially a statistic I never, ever wanted to become: 16 and pregnant.

My name is Maria. I’ve had exactly one partner, my ex-boyfriend, Andre. We only had sex a few times before our breakup. Andre used condoms, but they were cheap and were stored in his jean pocket for a while … I think maybe one might have broken. Who knows.

I have never been this scared in my whole life. My head is spinning. It’s hard to focus. I am going through flashbacks of my childhood. Heating up water on the stovetop to take a bath, fixing pesky holes in my shoes with tape, stretching out my peanut butter and jelly sandwich from lunch to be an after-school snack, too. We had the kind of poverty that leaves dirt under your fingernails and a feeling of always being less than anyone else … I don’t want this for my baby. I can’t let this cycle of poverty continue to repeat itself.

This isn’t the right time. I don’t want to do this alone. I feel sad, worried, and hopeless. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow. Someone, please help me. Please help my future little one, too.

Risk & Protective Factors for Teen Pregnancy

I have mostly been raised in a poor, urban neighborhood. My parents have always had struggles with addiction, and their addiction problems led to legal problems. My parents lost custody of my siblings and me when we were elementary age and younger. My siblings and I have been raised by immediate and extended family members. Thankfully, we have been able to avoid the foster care system.

I am the oldest of my siblings and have often felt the pressure to grow up very, very quickly. I go to a local high school. I am not sure if I will be able to graduate high school now that I am expecting.

There are many risk factors or influences that increase the likelihood of a person getting pregnant during their teenage years. These risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • High unemployment
  • Low education
  • Low income
  • Adverse childhood experiences
    • emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
    • intimate partner violence
    • living with someone who has substance use disorder or mental illness, or is involved in criminal activity
    • having parents who are divorced or separated

Protective factors are aspects or circumstances of teen life that can reduce the likelihood of teen pregnancy. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Individual level
    • Cognitive (thinking and reasoning) ability
    • Sense of optimism (positive beliefs and thoughts)
    • Agency (self-effectiveness)
    • Academic skills
    • Relational skills
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Involvement in positive activities
  • Relationship level
    • Parenting skills
    • Positive peers
    • Caring adult(s)
    • Supportive partner
    • Living with family member(s)
  • Community level
    • Positive school environment
    • Positive community environment
    • Economic opportunities

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How Common Is Teen Pregnancy?

I know a few other girls in my high school that have become pregnant. All I know is it seems like there is a quick vanishing act once girls get pregnant … They drop out of high school, they relocate, they take time off. Basically, they disappear. It seems like a lot never complete high school. I don’t want to disappear. I want to make it to high school graduation, I just don’t know how.

Overall, the birth rate for U.S. teens has been declining since 1991. From 2018 to 2019, the teen birth rate declined from 17.4 per 1,000 females ages 15-19 to 16.7 per 1,000 females ages 15-19.

Despite the decline in teen birth rates over time, the United States still has much higher teen birth rates in comparison with other countries. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information titled “Adolescent pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates across countries: levels and recent trends,” among 21 countries, the teen pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-old females was highest in the United States.

Here in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2016, the estimated number of teenage pregnancies among females ages 10-19 was 14,647 or a 19.9 per 1,000 birth rate.

Biopsychosocial Effects of Teen Pregnancy

I go to my first prenatal appointment. Once checked in, I’m told to leave a urine sample to confirm my pregnancy. I do, and it’s confirmed. Third time’s the charm to confirm I am definitely, definitely pregnant. I feel sick. Wait, I am sick. I am having my first-trimester “morning sickness.” Why do they call it “morning sickness” when it happens all day, every day? I will never understand.

First I meet with the doctor. The doctor notes I am 16 right away. “Yep,” I respond while looking down. The doctor seems very rushed. I look around the exam room, and the alphabet letters are peeling from the wall. The doctor recommends I meet with a social worker to discuss my “situation.” The doctor’s office does not have an in-house social worker but has one that is on call and can meet with me later this afternoon at a different office across the city. “OK,” I think. I quietly calculate the cost of getting across town. I think I’ll barely be able to afford it.

Biological Effects of Teen Pregnancy

According to an article in American Family Physician, pregnant females ages 13 to 19 may have:

  • increased risk of maternal complications during pregnancy and delivery
  • increased risk to the fetus and neonate
  • preterm delivery
  • low birth weight
  • infant mortality

Also, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:

  • Pregnant teens are more likely to:
    • develop pregnancy-related high blood pressure
    • develop anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells)
    • not know they have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
      • Some STIs can cause problems with the pregnancy or for the baby.
    • may be less likely to get prenatal care or keep prenatal appointments
      • Prenatal care is important because it allows a healthcare provider to evaluate, identify, and treat risks, such as counseling teens not to take certain medications during pregnancy, sometimes before these risks become problems.

Psychological Effects of Teen Pregnancy

“Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents,” an article published by Pediatrics, outlines that teenage mothers may be at risk of developing the following mental health conditions:

  • Postpartum depression
    • According to “Epidemiology of women and depression,” published by the Journal of Affective Disorders, “… in adolescent mothers, rates of depression are estimated to be between 16% and 44%. In contrast, the lifetime prevalence of major depression among nonpregnant adolescents and adult women is between 5% and 20%.”
  • Suicidal ideation or thoughts
    • According to “Recognizing and treating depression in children and adolescents,” published by the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, “Approximately 19% of all 15- to 19-year-olds report having thoughts of suicide, and ∼9% have made a suicide attempt.”

Social Effects of Teen Pregnancy

An article in BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology titled “Long term social consequences of adolescent pregnancy,” reports that teen mothers often have long-term negative consequences such as getting less education and reduced household income.

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Adolescent Counseling at SUN Behavioral Health

I arrive at the social worker’s office. The social worker I meet with is named Elaine. Elaine happens to be bilingual in Spanish. I immediately feel more at ease in communicating with her.

Elaine provides information and pamphlets about teen pregnancy. Elaine asks me to draw a circle with me and my baby in the middle of a piece of paper. “OK … this is weird,” I think. I draw the circle with baby and me. She has me continue to draw circles around me and the baby. It looks a little bit like a dartboard once I am done. Elaine wants me to think of this as my “circles of support.”

Elaine asks, “Who is the closest to you that can provide you and baby with support? Whether that’s emotional or financial support? It could look like childcare when you are in a pinch or temporary housing if you need it.” I think about my parents … hooked on drugs. I think about my extended family and how they have taken on the unwelcome burden of my siblings and me. I respond honestly, “I don’t have anyone I can think of.”

The social worker has me write down her name: Elaine. “Great,” I think. “A stranger I just met is my only source of support.” Elaine says we will work on building this social system as it will be important for me and the baby. I like talking to Elaine. I schedule the next counseling appointment.

If you or your loved one is an adolescent in need of or interested in counseling, adolescent counseling treatment is available at SUN Behavioral Columbus. At SUN, we will assess your unique needs and provide recommendations to best address your mental health concerns. We aid in managing common mental health disorders for children and adolescents that include, but are not limited to:

We use evidence-based therapy approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and provide access to psychiatry services.

Mental Health Care at SUN Behavioral Columbus

Being a teen mom can be a scary and lonely experience. You may be wondering: How can I best care for my little one? The best way you can care for your little one is by getting the help you need today. You are not alone in your mental health or substance use struggles. Gain access to quality, compassionate care today. Call (614) 706-2786 to begin your journey toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.