A young woman experiences many psychological, social, and physical changes during the adolescence period. These changes can be even more challenging when you are young and pregnant. In 2016, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 20.3 live births for every 1,000 adolescent females between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Pregnancy results in many changes for women, but just how does it affect the life of a young mother?
There are many effects of teen pregnancy. You will experience intense emotions as soon as you realize you have missed your period. Emotions may start out as confusion, fear, excitement, frustration, and resentment. As you try to figure out how you feel about being pregnant, how you will tell your parents, and what you will tell the father of the baby, you may become overwhelmed. There are many choices to make early on in pregnancy, and many young women may not be ready to face some of these tough decisions. Some pregnant teens are so overwhelmed they may become depressed.
Teen Pregnancy and Depression
Consequences of teenage pregnancy may include depression. A 2016 study published in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing indicated symptoms of depression were 2 to 4 times higher in teen mothers when compared to their childless peers. High levels of depression can greatly impact the interaction between mother and infant and can even affect the child's cognitive and emotional development.
Despite experiencing a high level of stress, teenage mothers rarely seek assistance for mental health concerns. Some of the barriers to treatment include:
- Stigma of mental illness
- Lack of time due to the demands of parenting
- Lack of transportation
- Childcare issues and not having insurance
As a pregnant teen, you may receive less support from your peers and the father of your child. You may also experience more discrimination and shaming from those around you.
- Social support: Isolation may lead to poor health outcomes for a young mom. Research shows mothers under the age of 18 tend to overestimate their support networks when pregnant compared to their reality after giving birth. A 2012 study indicated young mothers received significantly less social support than adult mothers because they had less ability to maintain relationships with others.
- The relationship with the father of the baby: As a teenage mom, you are at increased risk for a breakdown of your relationship with the child's father. According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, only 34 percent of teen mothers went on to marry by the time their child was 5 years old. Most often, these marriages were to the biological father of their child. It has also been reported 38 percent of teen mothers who were married at the time their child was born were no longer married just five years later.
Discrimination and shame: Pregnant teens may also suffer discrimination or ridicule from schoolmates, teachers, and administrators. Pregnant teens often get discriminated against when looking for a job. If you are part of a religious group, you may feel unwanted or like an outcast at church. There are laws under the Education Amendment of 1972 that make it mandatory for schools to allow you to receive an education and not exclude you from any activities related to your pregnancy. The same law also states you can go to your normal school if you want to.
As teen mom, you are at higher risk for living in poverty because parenthood may interfere with your ability to complete your education and as a result, you may have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.
- High School Graduation: Young mothers are less likely to complete high school compared to women who bear children later on in life. Raising a child can take away from the time and energy required to attend class. Although some will go on to complete high school, only one-third (34 percent) of young mothers earned a diploma or a GED by the age of 22.
- Poverty: Studies indicate young mothers are 3 times more likely to live in poverty when compared to women in their thirties. In fact, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of teen mothers received some kind public benefits within the first year after giving birth. This not only includes the 55 percent of young mothers receiving Medicaid, but also the 30 percent receiving food stamps and the 10 percent receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
- Child Support: A 2012 study found that only one-quarter (24 percent) of teen mothers reported receiving any formal or informal child support in the year prior. Of those who did receive support, the payment average was only about $2,000 a year.
There are number factors that put you at a higher risk for poor pregnancy and birth outcomes. The April 2015 Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology reported young women were more likely to experience:
- Maternal anemia
- Preterm delivery at less than 37 weeks of gestation
- Postpartum hemorrhage
Additionally, teenage mothers under the age of 16 were two times more likely to have a forceps delivery as compared to women aged 20 to 24.
As a pregnant teen, you may need someone to talk to who can be objective, understanding, and confidential. There are several organizations that provide free and confidential counseling by phone. There are also a number of resources online that provide useful pregnancy related information.
Someone To Talk To
Experts at Planned Parenthood can help you with your pregnancy concerns. Call their hotline at 1-800-230-7526.
The OptionLine can connect you with a local pregnancy center that provides many pregnancy related services for free. You can also call the hotline at 1-800-712-4357 to speak with someone about your pregnancy concerns.
Help is also available online.
As a young woman, you may have difficulty adjusting to your pregnancy. The emotional, social, economic and, physical changes you experience will impact your life and the course of your child's life but the experts and resources available will help you make informed decisions.