Teen Pregnancies: Causes, Health Risks and Prevention Strategies

Written by Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant

Image Source: Freepik
Being a pregnant teen is a harsh reality that certain teenagers may face in their lifetime. In Malaysia alone, an average amount of 18,000 teenagers have been found to fall pregnant each year, rounding it off to 50 pregnancy cases per day. Why are teen pregnancies so prevalent locally and globally as well and what can we do about it? Parents Avenue will be going in depth on this topic by covering certain subjects including the causes, health risks on mother and baby and ultimately, preventative measures.
What is teen pregnancy?

 

Teenage pregnancy, also known as adolescent pregnancy, is pregnancy occurring in women aged 20 and below. This is a global issue that most often takes place in marginalized communities, with factors such as poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities being the driving force that contributes to this issue. Other than that, teen pregnancies affect countries of not only low to medium income but those of high incomes as well. For many teenagers, the decision of pregnancy and childbirth aren’t previously arranged, expected nor wanted. Most of the time, this can be a direct result of several obstacles faced when accessing contraception because of:

  • Laws and policies regarding contraceptives based on age
  • Marital status
  • Health worker bias
  • A teen’s lack of capacity to access contraceptives because of constraints such as lack of knowledge and financial funds

However, for teenagers who successfully acquire contraception, there are still several stumbling blocks along the way that prevent the consistent, or, correct use of contraception. Mainly, the stigma that’s associated with non-marital sexual activities, apprehension of side effects, and restricted knowledge on correct use, and lastly, the reluctance to seek contraception due to negative experiences which will undoubtedly cause the discontinuation of contraceptive usage.

Image Source: Freepik
Causes of Teen Pregnancy
 

Teenage pregnancies are most often unintentional as well as due to a variety of different reasons. Listed below are the causes that bring about the onset of this issue faced by teenagers:

  • Drugs and alcohol

While in their adolescent years, teenagers will develop tendencies to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, most teenagers have very little understanding of the implications that comes with the consumption of these substances. Consuming these substances in large amounts will affect a teenager’s ability to carry out coherent processes of thought, such as thinking logically and will make reasoning even more difficult. Risky situations such as these create higher chances for teenagers to engage in unprotected and unsafe sexual practices.

  • Peer Pressure

Another way teenage pregnancy occurs is in adolescent relationships when a partner feels pressured and emotionally coerced into engaging in sexual activities. This often leaves them with a lack of choice in the matter. This rather emotionally abusive tactic will most likely result in an unintended pregnancy as young teenage girls may be manipulated and forced into unprotected sex with their partner. The same mechanics also apply to women who are in relationships with older men.

  • Low socioeconomic status

Teenagers who become pregnant will most often come from families who live in poverty and lack the proper resources to raise their child. One of the missing resources that are lacking is education, and that comes with the limitation of not knowing the human reproductive system, and even, sexual health education. With these restrictions, the teenagers will not be able to make an informed choice and this will inevitably lead them to practice unsafe and risky sexual methods.

  • Media based influences

The media most often have a huge effect on teen pregnancy, glamorizing these issues on tv shows and films. Unfortunately, what this does is conceal the difficulties and challenges that come with being a parent at a very young age. Some teenagers are more drawn to maturing at a younger age. These media influences praise the notion of teenagers raising a child through the promise of a more adult lifestyle and more decision making choices.

Health risks associated with teen pregnancies
 

Pregnant teens and their unborn babies have unique medical risks. Listed below are the common risks that accompany teen pregnancies:

  • Prenatal care deficit

Teenage girls who are pregnant with parents who have chosen not to support them are at a higher risk of not receiving prenatal care. For any pregnancy, prenatal care is very important in the first few months of pregnancy as it screens for medical issues with mother and baby, observes the baby’s development and can quickly detect and solve any problems that may arise.

  • High blood pressure

Pregnant teenagers have been found to develop a higher risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension, compared to women in their 20’s or 30’s. They’re also more inclined to have preeclampsia. With all these medical risks at hand, the pregnant teenager may have to turn to medications to control the symptoms of these conditions. But while doing so, they could also disrupt the baby’s growth and cause further implications.

  • Premature birth

40 weeks is how long a full-term pregnancy lasts. A baby that’s delivered at 37 weeks is considered a premature baby. In certain cases, premature labor that occurs too early in pregnancy be prevented using medication. In other situations, the baby may have to be delivered earlier for the best interest of the overall health of the mother and infant. When the baby is born earlier than scheduled, it might run the risk of developing respiratory, eyesight, or cognitive problems.

  • Babies with low birth weight

Teens are at higher risk of having low-birth-weight babies. Premature babies are more likely to weigh less than they should. In part, because they’ve had less time in the womb to grow. A low-birth-weight baby weighs only 3.3 to 5.5 pounds. A very-low-birth-weight baby weighs less than 3.3 pounds. Babies that small may need to be put on a ventilator in a hospital’s neonatal care unit for help with breathing after birth.

Image Source: Freepik

 

Prevention strategies for teen pregnancies
 

Interestingly enough, an article was published regarding a rural town named Denmark, South Carolina that previously had the highest pregnancy count in America and has since cut its pregnancy rates by two thirds. Listed are among one of the “common” sense methods as practiced by the town as mentioned on Think Progress:

  • Teach kids comprehensive sex ed

At the most basic level, kids need to receive sexual health instruction to make healthy choices about their physical relationships. Every student in Denmark now gets comprehensive sex-ed beginning in middle school. In addition to classes, students can seek out individual counselling sessions. The curriculum covers self-esteem, setting sexual boundaries, and how to effectively use contraception.

  • Target messages at teen boys, not just at the girls

Denmark’s approach recognizes that teen pregnancy is not just an issue for teen girls. That’s in sharp contrast to many teen pregnancy prevention campaigns in the U.S., which sometimes focus on blaming girls for their bad choices without putting equal weight on boys’ responsibility. There are sessions where the young men and women of the community are talking together and learning the curriculum together, as it’s important to have and be able to navigate those conversations.

  • Get the whole community involved

Denmark’s program is both school-based and community-based. In addition to making sure students attend sex ed classes, it also partners with local beauty shops, laundromats, barber shops, and churches to spread the word about safe sex. There’s information about birth control and pregnancy everywhere. They try to involve everyone — the churches, the schools, the businesses, the parents… so that everyone is sending the same messages to the kids.

  • Encourage mentoring

The older teens in Denmark are encouraged to serve as mentors to their younger peers, particularly since not every adult in the community is comfortable broaching the issue of sexuality at home. Students have the opportunity to meet together in smaller, one-hour focus groups to talk through topics related to teen sexuality and healthy relationships, and some are specifically trained to act as peer educators. Hearing messages about safe sex from peers is often more impactful than hearing it from adults. 

 

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 

 

 

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