Reasons, Consequences & Prevention Tips for Teen Pregnancy
Teenagers becoming parents is all too common in America. The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. We will explain the reasons many teens end up pregnant, the consequences of teen pregnancy, and how teen pregnancy can be prevented.
There are a number of reasons that teens end up pregnant. Some teens cite contraception failure, not thinking, getting caught up in the moment, or being drunk. Others state that they did not feel comfortable obtaining contraception, felt pressured to have unprotected sex, or felt embarrassed to ask their partner to use contraception. Some teenage girls did not believe they could get pregnant because they believed the myth that you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex or because they didn’t know how ovulation works and when they were most likely to be fertile. Finally, a little more than 20% of teenage girls actually want to become a mother. They feel discouraged with school, their future, or their family, and they want to receive the unconditional love that exists between a mother and a child.
Parenting, at any age, requires a great deal of sacrifice, responsibility, and hard work. Unfortunately, there are even greater costs involved for a teen parent.
Increased Responsibility. Most teens are simply unaware of what it means to put someone else’s needs (in this case, a baby) ahead of their own. While they are a child themselves and still have many needs, babies are very high-maintenance and require round-the-clock care. The baby needs to eat and be changed every couple of hours. Most teens don’t realize that, on average, a parent sleeps 350 hours less at night over their baby’s first year of life than they did the previous year. Teens, who are quite fond of sleeping in, will feel exhausted. Even mature adults can find the demands of a baby frustrating, so it is sad, but not really a surprise, that studies show that teenage mothers exhibit higher rates of child abuse than older mothers do.
Education Sacrifices. Because babies are such a huge responsibility and require so much time, teen parents often sacrifice their education. Many intend to continue their education but when faced with the realities of parenting, fewer than half of teenagers who have children before age 18 go on to graduate from high school. Less than 2 percent of mothers who give birth before age 18 obtain college degrees by age 30. These choices even impact their children. Children born to teen parents are twice as likely not to graduate high school.
Insufficient Finances. Babies are not cheap. Unfortunately, because education is sacrificed, about 80 percent of teen mothers cannot obtain jobs that would allow them to support their families. Many teen mothers are left to care for their new baby alone since almost 90% of teen parents don’t marry each other. Regardless of whether the father provides financial support, two-thirds of families with a young unmarried mother are poor. Over 75% of all unmarried teen mothers go on welfare within 5 years of the birth of their first child.
Educate! Teen pregnancy is, in many ways, the direct result of misinformation. Girls may not understand enough about their own biology, or they haven’t considered all the consequences of having a baby, or they just don’t think it will happen to them. The adults in a teenager’s life need to provide them with accurate and complete information. Here are some helpful tips:
- Keep communication between you and your teen (both boys and girls) open so that talking about sex is easier to broach.
- You must have “the sex talk” with your teen, and not just once. Over time, as you talk about this subject, be sure you:
- Teach your teenager the problems associated with unsafe sex. Explain the diseases that can result. Both boys and girls need to be responsible.
- Share the consequences of teen pregnancy that we listed above. A sexually active teen who doesn’t use contraceptives has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.
- Provide accurate information about their basic biology. Girls need to understand ovulation and their menstrual cycle. All teens should understand that girls can get pregnant the first time she has sex.
- Reinforce your family values and help your teen to feel good about themselves. Instill a sense of confidence in your teen.
- Encourage goals. The chances that children will delay sex, pregnancy, and parenthood are significantly increased if their future appears bright. This means adults should help youth set meaningful goals for the future, talk to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and help them reach their goals.
- Encourage safe and fun activities and sports. Show them their strengths and keep education a top priority.
- Watch for warning signs of heavy relationships with the opposite sex. Do not allow dating among teenagers who are more than 2 years apart in age.
- Know what your teenager is doing and where they like to hang out. Make your home an open place for your teenager’s friends and encourage fun activities at responsible and respected places.
Make sure you share one more important statistic with your teen. If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% chance of not living in poverty.
Most teens don’t want to be part of the statistics. They have hopes and dreams and want to have a good life. Encourage education. Inspire in them a desire for a positive future, one where they can provide the best life to a child, when they are no longer a child themselves.