Teenage pregnancy is described as pregnancy in women under 20 years of age whether married or not. However, most of these cases occur between ages 15-19 thus in this article you will notice that this age group is mostly mentioned. In other cases, the young girls may opt to abort before the pregnancy ends its term.
However, in both cases, these are classed as pregnant teenagers who we are about to discuss shortly. There are several negative factors associated with teenage pregnancy, which include dropping out of school, lack of access to maternal care, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional trauma, depression and the list is endless.
There have been several government program initiatives that educate young women on the importance of responsible sexual behavior. These may succeed in reducing the number of teenagers ignorantly engaging in unprotected sex.
For instance, Healthy people 2020 is a federal government initiative that aims at reducing the rate of teen pregnancy to 36.2 by the year 2020 among 15-17 year olds. Other related goals of this initiative are to educate teens on the role of abstinence and in case they cannot, to use birth control pills.
Non -governmental organizations have also joined the government in such campaigns. Goals still remain similar in all of these campaigns; to significantly reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy.
Causes of teenage pregnancy
Many factors have been attributed to increasing the rate of pregnancy among teens as discussed below.
- Peer pressure. This could be said as the number one cause of teen pregnancy not only in the US but worldwide. Most teens want to fit in with their peers and therefore engage in illicit sex. When teens reach a certain age, they may hear their peers bragging about their sexual escapades. Although these reports may often not be true, those hearing of such stories often fall into the trap by engaging in unprotected sex. The pressure to have a boyfriend is also a factor when considering the reasons teens get pregnant. Peer pressure can have a very strong effect on the lives of teens who are at a time in their lives when hormones are raging and feel inclined to join a particular group.
- Drug and alcohol abuse. More are and more youths are abusing drugs and alcohol. When in an intoxicated state, there is a reduced reasoning capacity and therefore it becomes easier for such teens to engage in irresponsible sexual behavior. Often, they are in clubs or other social gatherings without the supervisions of an adult and all this makes them exposed. There may be other instances when an older person takes advantage of a teen in such an environment and this can also be a contributing factor.
- Unstable family backgrounds. It has been noted that girls who grew up in families which are unstable are likely to be teen moms. Picture the scenario where the father who is the sole breadwinner is a drunkard, they quarrel with the mother every other night, and so neither of the parents has the time to be there for their children. In such an unstable family, teens are likely to turn to other thins for comfort; drugs, alcohol, boyfriends etc. therefore their peers are the ones who are likely to advise them on matters related to adulthood and growing up, which is often the wrong kind of advice.
- Poverty. This factor is closely related to the previously mentioned one. In a family with scarce economic resources, teens may drop out of school. In an effort to make ends meet, youths may be lured into relationships with boys from rich families. This has often resulted into unwanted pregnancies.
Trends indicate a decline in pregnancy rate
Although the teenage pregnancy rate in the US has declined over the past few years, the figures are still alarming. Statistics from the US department of health and human services indicate that in the year 2013 there were 273,105 babies born to females between the ages of 15-19.
The US teen birth rate is still currently high compared to other developed countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. An interesting point to note in these figures is that these teen moms had other babies prior to the ones they currently have. 17% of females aged between 15-19 were found to already having one or two babies.
Reports from the same sources quoted above indicated variations in on teen birth rate depending on age and race. In the year 2013, 73% of teen pregnancies occurred among youths who were 18 and above years of age. Teens of Hispanic or African American origins have higher birth rates compared to their white counterparts.
In a study of 1000 women aged 15-19; there was a live birth rate of 26.5 in the year 2013. This shows a decline compared to the previous year which was about 30.5. While it is not clear why there is such a decline, the reasons could be attributed to more women who are sexually active using contraceptives or less sexual activity among teens.
Devastating consequences of teenage pregnancies
Teenage pregnancies are almost always unwanted. 82% of young women admitted that their pregnancies were not intended. Due to this factor, another social vice comes up; abortion.
Since most teens feel confused upon learning of their pregnancy, they quickly opt to terminate it. This does not always go smoothly. In areas where abortion is illegal or in cases where a teen is unable to go to a hospital for the process due to lack of funds, they end up in dingy clinics, often risking their lives.
Mothers who have children while in their teens are also noticed to be emotionally unstable compared to more mature mothers. This also affects their children as they are bound to grow up in an unstable environment.
The number one reason for teens dropping out of school is unwanted pregnancies. More than 50% of young mothers will not make it to high school graduation. With limited education and probably no funds, most teens struggle to make ends meet while raising their children.
They not only become a burden to their families but also to the government. The tax payers pay a high price due to early childbearing. $9.4-$28 billion a year is spent on public health care, loss of tax revenue and foster care. Dropping out of school also comes along with other undesirable traits like engaging in petty theft, drug and alcohol abuse.
- Encouragement to get more children. It is a sad fact that teen moms don’t learn their lesson and get a second child not long after their first. This could be due to lack of counseling services on young mothers. The first reaction for most guardians when their teens get pregnant is anger. Teens may feel hopeless and thus feel inclined to repeat the same mistake again.
- Poor parental skills. Teen moms are obviously not experienced and therefore lack proper parental skills for their young ones. Children born to teen moms will often be left in the care of their grandparents or day care centers. This affects them psychologically and it is often reported that they have poor grades while they join school.
- Medical complications. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, teen moms are likely to face complications while giving birth compared to their older counterparts. Most teens do not seek care during the term of their pregnancy. Conditions likely to rise include anemia, high blood pressure, premature birth and others.
- Depression. Most teens fall into depression because they have no idea of how to handle the flood of emotions and fluctuating hormones that come along with pregnancy. They may feel even more rejected when the father of the baby denies responsibility. The family and relatives of the teen may also add up to the pressure by their constant negative feedback. They may also feel left out by their peers, since they can no longer interact freely.
As we have discussed, teen pregnancy is a serious issue that comes along with many negative effects. Government initiatives and nonprofit organizations have put their best food forward in helping to curb the problem. However, they still face challenges in their efforts.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of every parent to ensure that their teenage daughters are well educated on the issue. Sex education should not left on the hands of secular authorities or peers. When parents are free to discuss such matters with their teenagers, they will be more responsible in their actions with peers even without the scrutiny or supervision of adults.
We have also seen that the negative impacts also touch on the economy and therefore this is enough reason for this to be taken seriously. All efforts; from the government, non-profit organizations and individuals are worth the effort in reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and saving a future generation from much heartache.