Teenage Pregnancy at a Glance
Are you clued-up about teenage pregnancy? Do you know what you should do in order to be strong and healthy if you are pregnant as a teen? Do you know how to look after a pregnant teen? The information given below will be helpful to you if you’re pregnant at a young age or if your teenage daughter is pregnant.
What is teenage pregnancy?
As implicit from the name, teenage pregnancy or teen pregnancy occurs when a young girl below the age of 20 years becomes pregnant. It can occur before or after the first menstrual period known as menarche. Girls experience menarche at different ages. Some girls may experience it at the age of 12 while it may occur in a later age in some girls. Unlike older pregnant women, pregnant teenagers have some additional medical concerns and other socio-economic problems. Some of the medical concerns they may face include premature labour, preeclampsia, anaemia, premature labour, low birth weight and others. Teenage pregnancy may cause emotional traumas especially in cases when the pregnancy is not planned for. It can make a girl to stop her education until after childbirth. The parents of a pregnant teenager who is not married may also have additional financial needs as results of the pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy can also carry some social stigma.
The rate of teenage pregnancy in various parts of the world differs owing to difference in culture, level of civilization and education. In some part of the world especially in the developing world, pregnant teenagers are welcomed in the family while in some part of the world, they are despised.
Causes of teenage pregnancy
Studies have shown that teenage pregnancy can be caused by a number of factors. Here are some of the factors that can give rise to teenage pregnancy.
Early marriage is one of the major causes of teenage pregnancy in some part of the world especially in sub-Saharan African countries. In many places, young ladies are given out in marriage by their families for various reasons. Some cultures encourage early pregnancy because it is a sign a woman is fertile. This is normally the case in cultures where baby-making is the main reason why people enter into marriage. So, men marry ladies whose fertility can be proved.
Some parents also give out their daughters early in marriage for economic reasons or for social prestige. In some cultures, parents whose sons and daughters are married are respected and honoured. In order to gain the respect and honour reserved for parents that have in-laws and grandchildren, some parents give out their daughters in marriage sometimes against their wishes. There are also other parents that may force their daughters to marry at the early age because of some economic benefits. If a young lady gets a rich suitor or a suitor from a rich family, the lady may be forced to accept the man in marriage whether or not she loves her. This normally happens in developing countries.
Some religions in the world today encourage young ladies to marry at early age. There are also some religions that uphold certain practices that lead to early marriage. For example, in some religion, the acceptable age for marriage is 12 years for women and 15 years form men. So, once a girl is up to 12 years, she is ready for marriage.
There are some religions that allow parents to decide who marries their daughter and when the lady should marry. Young ladies have no say when it comes to the choice of life partner. In such religions, ladies can be married even when they are still babies.
Lack of education on safe sex
Many teenagers who get pregnant especially in developed countries do not plan for it. They just discovered that they were pregnant after missing their monthly period for one or two months. In other words, they don’t know the implication of having unprotected sex. Secondly, they don’t know when it is safe for them to have unprotected sex and when it is risky. Most of them don’t have any knowledge about methods of birth controls. They are basically ignorant about sexuality.
Inability to manage peers pressure
Teenage pregnancy sometimes results from ability of some young ladies to manage peers pressure to have sex when they are not prepared for that. Studies have shown that a good number of pregnant teenagers succumbed to pressure from their peers to have sexual intercourse when they were not ready for that. Peers pressure can occur in many ways. Some young ladies may be influenced by friends who are promiscuous. They heard their friends discussing about their male friends and their sexual encounters with them and they followed them. There are some that were talked into having sex by their male friends. Peers pressures and influences are therefore one of the major causes of teenage pregnancy.
Teenage pregnancy can also be caused by rape. There are a number of teenage ladies who became pregnant after being rape. Most young girls are afraid to let their parents know that they were raped. Some will only mention it when they discover that they are pregnant.
Adolescent sexuality is another cause of teenage pregnancy. It differs from country to country. In some countries especially developed countries, men started having sexual intercourse at early age. Since at that early stage, they may be ignorant of the implication of having unprotected sex, they are more likely going to get some of their peers pregnant.
Drug and alcohol abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse can cause teenage pregnancy because they influence actions. They may make somebody to do what ordinarily he or she will not be able to do. Teenagers who take hard drugs and alcoholic beverage are much more likely to indulge in sexual intercourse than other young ladies that don’t abuse hard drugs and alcohol. There are evidences linking teenage pregnancy to drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and alcohol. Some of these drugs can increase libido causing sexual promiscuity among teenagers that abuse them.
Other factors that may lead to teenage pregnancy are:
- dating abuse
- age discrepancy in relationship
- media influence
- low education
Signs and symptoms of teen pregnancy
Pregnant teenagers experience the same symptoms of pregnancy with older women. However, given that they are much younger, the symptoms may be more painful. Here are some symptoms associated with pregnancy.
Missing menstrual periods is the traditional sign of pregnancy. However, when it comes to teenage pregnancy, missing periods may not be the best indicator for pregnancy. It can give false alarm. This is because at this early stage, the menstrual period of a young lady may still be irregular and unsteady. So, if your teen daughter misses her periods, she may or not be pregnant. There are other signs of teenage pregnancy. They include:
- nausea and vomiting
- unusual mood swings
- frequent urination
- unusual tiredness
- sudden and intense aversion some foods
However, other sicknesses may cause these signs and symptoms. So, the best way to detect teenage pregnancy is to go for pregnancy test. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you have had unprotected sex, you should go for pregnancy test in order to confirm whether or not you are pregnant.
Some medical concerns
As it has been said above, teenage pregnancy can give rise to some medical concerns. Here are some of the health problems associated with teenage pregnancy.
High blood pressure
Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure is more common in teenage pregnancy than in older women. Pregnant teenagers may also suffer from preeclampsia which results in availability of excess protein in the urine and hypertension, organ damage and swelling of face and hands. Pregnancy induced hypertension and preeclampsia can cause further pregnancy complication like premature birth. They can also affect the growth of the developing baby. However, the pregnant teen can be given medications in order to reduce their symptoms.
Premature birth Low-birth weight baby
Premature birth and low-birth weight baby are other medical condition associated with teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy may last for 37 weeks instead of 40 weeks. A baby born in 37 weeks is born prematurely. Premature birth can cause some health problems such as respiratory, vision, digestive and cognitive problems. Premature childbirth can also cause low birth-weight baby meaning that the baby weighs less than it should. This is because the baby did not completely grow in the womb before birth. Low-birth weight babies normally weigh about 3.3 to 5.5 pounds or even less than 3.3 pounds. They are put in the ventilators in the neonatal care unit of a hospital to help them to breathe after childbirth.
Sexually transmitted disease
Teenage pregnancy may lead to the infection of the uterus if the teenager continues having unprotected sex during pregnancy.
Pregnant teenagers are more vulnerable to postpartum depression than other women. Postpartum depression refers to the depression that occurs after childbirth. If it is not properly treated, it can interfere with the care of the newly born baby. If your teenage girl feels sad during and after childbirth, you should take her to a counsellor to provide guideline to her on how to cope with the social stigma associated with being pregnant.
Feeling stigmatised, isolated and lonely
Teenage pregnancy can make a young girl to feel stigmatised, isolated and lonely. This is common among girls who feel scared telling their parents or guardians that they are pregnant or girls who have no support of their parents.
What to do when you are pregnant
- Take antenatal care.
- Meet with your school nurse or counsellor for guidance.
- Eat well and take enough rest.
- Take plenty of fruits, vegetables and multivitamins.
- Take enough water
- Go for counselling.