With Teen Pregnancy, Support Makes All the Difference

With Teen Pregnancy, Support Makes All the Difference

A teen pregnancy may be shocking at first and parent often feels a sense of disappointment but right now your child needs a parent more than ever. The best way for parents to deal with their teenage daughter’s pregnancy is by providingsupport.Whether you greeted the news with worry and dread or you are trying to find ways to be optimistic about your teen’s announcement that she is having a baby, you are not alone.

According to statistics gathered by DoSomething.org (https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teen-pregnancy), “3 in 10 teen American girls will get pregnant at least once before age 20. That’s nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies every year,” say researchers. Around 250,000 of them will give birth.

A pregnancy that’s not necessarily welcome

What your teen is going through is not unique and you could be surprised to discover that her pregnancy isn’t a decision she made purposefully. Lisa Rapaport’s blog post unveils a little-known fact that could change the way you look at your child’s situation: Some teen girls are pressured into getting pregnant by their boyfriends.

“Nearly one in eight sexually active teen girls are pressured by their partners to have unprotected sex and try to conceive when they don’t want a baby,” a 2019 Obstetrics & Gynecology journal article suggests (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-adolescents-coercion/many-teen-girls-pressured-by-partners-to-get-pregnant-idUSKCN1U62U3). Add this to the other complicated reasons a teen gets pregnant and it’s no wonder parents feel as though they are preparing to enter a mine field.

Be prepared for a roller coaster of feelings

Whether or not this pregnancy is wanted, intentional, or not so much, parents of teens are going find themselves experiencing cycles of feelings that are not unlike the stages Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote about in her seminal text about death and dying.

You’ll feel overwhelmed at times. Worried and embarrassed. You may move from disappointment and shock to grief within minutes and experience overwhelming worry about the future. You won't be the first parents unable to sleep at 2 a.m. because you can't turn off your brain.

To say that guilt is likely to factor into your state of emotions would be an understatement. It’s not hard to fall back on a theme all parents feel at one time or another: “Was there something I could have done to prevent this from happening?” You know the answer, but you may need counseling if you are haunted by this question.

3 Ways everything about the family dynamic changes

Once the shock that accompanies an announcement that your teen is pregnant begins to diminish, stay vigilant for changes in the family dynamic that may not be obvious, writes Teressa Rose Ezell for the Our Every Day Life website; changes that impact family life in “significant and life altering ways,” Ezell explains (https://oureverydaylife.com/effect-teenage-pregnancy-family-6308598.html).

1. Emotional effects can be devastating for every family member, according to an American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry white paper. “Depending on the family’s religious beliefs and social network, fear of being rejected or even ostracized can come into play.” It can take time to reach a point of acceptance for family members. Until then, pressure associated with of living in limbo has the potential to take a toll on everyone in the home.

2. Economic effects. The decision a teen makes to terminate a pregnancy, carry to term, keep or put the baby up for adoption can add to household tension. “Many employee insurance plans deny maternity benefits to dependents, leaving families of teenage mothers to bear the burden of prenatal and delivery expenses," according to a Kaiser Health News article. It’s no secret that everyday expenses associated with keeping a baby will have a huge impact on family finances.

3. Ripple effects. Should the teen mom decide to keep and raise her child, the role her mother plays will change dramatically, impacting the amount of attention the new grandma gives to other siblings. Patricia L. East, of the University of California at San Diego’s Department of Pediatrics, conducted a study and found that this expanded role can change everything about the way the new grandmother relates to other family members.

What your child is going through

Every parent knows that adolescence is no picnic, thus the added burden of hormonal changes, emotional flux, and the realization that nothing may every again be the same can make even the most easy-to-raise child go into a nosedive.

Counseling can be a lifesaver, say experts at the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Resource Center, an excellent resource for families in this situation (http://recapp.etr.org/RECAPP/INDEX.CFM?fuseaction=pages.EducatorSkillsDetail&PageID=89). Invaluable help derived from counseling may include:

•Anxiety reduction so teens can focus on life-altering decisions that lie ahead
•Offer the teen a safe, non-judgmental place to go to work out various aspects of her situation
•Help the teen identify and evaluate support systems in her world
•Provide information about options and implications surrounding the decisions she makes
•Assisting in the identification and location of additional resources.

Health concerns associated with teen pregnancies

The universal feeling that youth trumps age in terms of maintaining excellent health is easily refuted when a teen becomes pregnant. For that reason, teens put themselves and their pregnancies at higher risk when they decide to “hide the truth” for fear of repercussions. Early months of pregnancy are critical for all mothers but given a teen’s state of biology, those first months call for early intervention by medical professionals.

Risks are “greater if you are pregnant before the age of 15 or you do not seek prenatal care,” say medical experts posting on the American Pregnancy Association website (https://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/teen-pregnancy-issues-challenges/). Teen moms could find themselves having to address these important health concerns:

•Anemia due to low iron levels
•Pregnancy-induced blood pressure spikes
•Premature birth
•Low infant birth weight
•Pelvic underdevelopment issues
•Complications at delivery
•Higher fetal mortality rate.

15 tips for having a healthy teen pregnancy

1. Attend regular prenatal doctor visits
2. Undergo precautionary tests and evaluations
3. Get counseling and education leading to a more mindful pregnancy
4. Seek help dealing with nausea and vomiting
5. Take doctor-recommended vitamins and minerals
6. Don’t smoke and stay away from others who do
7. Avoid drugs not prescribed by doctors
8. Don’t drink alcohol that could cause birth defects
9. Eat foods rich in proteins, calcium, iron, and folic acid
10. Get plenty of rest
11. Drink lots of water
12. Stay active and continue to exercise
13. Keep stress to a minimum
14. Take prenatal classes. They’re confidence builders.
15. Prepare for the future by evaluating all options.

It bears repeating: You are not alone. Avail yourself of whatever resources you need to help yourself and your teen come through this pregnancy. You may be surprised to learn that your relationship with your child has become deeper and stronger, no matter which pregnancy alternative she has decided to pursue.