Adolescence is a period where young women go through many physical changes and assert more independence. Some young teen girls may choose to engage in sexual intercourse. In 2007, about 7.1 percent of girls under the age of 13 reported having sex for the first time. Although teen pregnancy rates have been declining in recent years, in 2010, 5.4 percent of young women 14 years old or younger became pregnant. Teen pregnancy can create considerable fear and uncertainty for young women.
How to Tell Your Parents
As a pregnant teen, you might have a range of emotions including excitement, guilt, confusion, or embarrassment as you try to figure out how you will tell your parents. This process may be difficult, but it is important to do it as soon as possible so they can help you make timely decisions.
There is no right way to break the news about your pregnancy to your parents. You should begin the conversation by stating that you have some difficult news to share with them. As calmly as you can say "I am pregnant, and I need your love and support right now because I'm scared." You should also apologize (if you feel that you've disappointed them) and let them know that you're going through the hardest time of your life. This news may be difficult for your parents to accept so be prepared for any possible reaction and to answer a lot of questions. Try to stay calm and listen without interrupting. Remember, they just received some news that will change their lives too. Let your parents know you will only be able to succeed with their help. Other helpful tips on how to break the news to your parents include:
- Choose the right time to announce your pregnancy.
- Be calm and straightforward when you tell them.
- Tell your parents as soon as possible.
- Prepare yourself for their reaction.
Waiting too long to have this conversation can complicate the situation and the choices you will have to make.
Telling Your Friends
You may feel awkward announcing your pregnancy to your friends. You may be worried about how your pregnancy or baby will change your relationship with them. Having their support may help you cope with all the unknowns that come with pregnancy. Research suggests pregnant teens generally turn to their peers for social and emotional support during pregnancy. Study findings also indicate peers provide the highest level of emotional support only second to a teen's mother. Be open and honest with your friends. Having someone to confide in can help you process your emotions. Ask them to keep the news to themselves until you are ready to tell others. You can decide how involved you would like them to be.
How to Get Care
It's important to receive prenatal care as early as possible. A report by the Guttmacher Institute noted preteen girls were more likely to not receive any prenatal care during pregnancy or wait until their third trimester of their pregnancy to access care. UptoDate, an evidenced-based clinical decision tool, notes late prenatal care negatively impact pregnancy outcomes and your baby's health as it increases your risk for preterm delivery, having a low-birth-weight baby, and complications from preeclampsia. Many states and the District of Columbia allow girls under the age of 18 to obtain confidential prenatal care which includes regular medical visits. It is important to contact your healthcare provider or visit a local organization such as Planned Parenthood or the health department to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Oftentimes these organizations can provide care for free or at a reduced cost.
Risks to Mom
There are many risk factors associated with giving birth at a young age. Younger women are less likely to receive prenatal care during the first trimester of her pregnancy. This can increase your risk for:
- Cesarean birth
- Pre-term delivery (giving birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
- Toxemia (having toxins in the blood)
- High blood pressure
Studies also indicate the number of teens who die while pregnant or within 42 days after giving birth was two and half times higher for girls under the age of 15 than mothers ages 20 to 24.6 years.
Risk to Baby
Babies born to teen mothers have higher risks for certain health problems. Babies born to young mothers are more likely to be preterm (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and have lower birth weight. Studies indicate teens under the age of 15 years were two times more likely to give birth to babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth and three times more likely to have their baby die within the first 28 days of life as compared to babies born to older mothers. Researchers also note that children born to teenage mothers often experience developmental problems later in life.
Having a baby at a young age can delay your educational and career attainment goals. Research indicates that 30 percent of teen girls who drop out of high school do so because of pregnancy or parenthood. Dropping out of high school can greatly impact your future earning potential as a college graduate will earn $1 million dollars more than a high school drop out over the course of a lifetime.
Teenage mothers are also more likely to live in poverty. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy indicates 41 percent of mothers who gave birth before the age of 20 were living in poverty one year after giving birth. The chances of living in poverty increased to 50 percent by the time their child was 3 years old.
If you decide to become sexually active, talk to your parents or someone you trust about starting birth control and safe sex practices. Early teen pregnancy can be physically and emotionally overwhelming for you and your family. Having a conversation with your parents is a great way to explore your feelings and tackle any issues that may arise. Ideally, your parents will help you with important decisions and support your choices.