In the United States, over a half million teenage girls become pregnant each year. When girls in their teens or even pre-teens find themselves in such an adult, emotional and life-changing situation, it can be overwhelming. Young girls who find themselves pregnant have important decisions to make about their futures and need support, guidance and the right information.
Girls who are in such a challenging position as pregnancy can and should be able to turn to their parents and pediatricians to get support, resources and knowledge. It helps them to know about all the options available to them during this difficult time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP explains how pregnant teens can get medical care and information about their options while keeping personal, spiritual and cultural aspects in mind. Options include having their babies to raise on their own, giving the baby up for adoption or terminating the pregnancy.
Children Having Children
Many teens who get pregnant choose to continue with the pregnancy. Those who choose that route should be helped so that they can receive prenatal care as soon as possible and encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle. They should be encouraged to consume a healthy, well-balanced diet, avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking and get daily exercise.
Girls who ultimately decide to keep their babies and raise them need strong support systems. Although it can be challenging, young girls who become pregnant and choose to keep their babies can be successful both in their personal goals and having healthy kids. Typically, they have a much better outcome when they have support from their families.
The following are facts about teen mothers:
- Out of all the teen girls who have a baby before the age of 18, under 40 percent get their high school diploma by age 22.
- Around two-thirds of teen moms receive public assistance and have greater odds of living in poverty by the time they become adults. Most teen moms receive no child support from the father of their child.
- Challenges associated with teen parents can last through generations. Kids of teen moms are more likely to do poorly in school, get held back or even drop out. Daughters of teen moms are also more likely to become teen moms themselves.
Kinship arrangements are those when a family member takes the teen’s baby to raise as their own. Often, the parents of the pregnant teen take the baby, but there may be another relative who becomes the parent. Kinship care can be done through the state’s child welfare system or a private and informal process.
Kinship care can also allow the teen a chance to be a part of the process in raising her child or taking full responsibility for being a parent in the future. There is evidence that supports these arrangements as being positive and better for the baby compared with being in foster care. At the same time, kinship care carries certain challenges itself.
If you’re a parent of a pregnant teen who intends to raise your teen’s baby, you should keep the following in mind:
- Informal arrangements involving children living with relatives can be problematic if the relatives don’t have the authority to consent to medical care being given to the baby. This includes immunizations and other types of health services that are non-emergency in nature. However, the family pediatrician can help relatives by connecting them to legal resources to get that authority to ensure the child stays healthy.
- If the family members who raise the baby are older and have not had an infant for many years, they may be unaware of certain safety standards such as those for car seats, sleep and other matters.
- While parents or other older relatives raising the baby can find it highly rewarding, it’s wise for them to have guardianship in place just in case they have a health crisis.
Adoption is an option for pregnant teens who aren’t ready to become a parent. Each year in the US, millions of couples await the opportunity to adopt a child. This gives them the opportunity to become loving parents to wonderful children who need a family.
The option of adoption is legal and binding. At the same time, many states allow the birth mother time, whether a few days to up to several months, the opportunity to change her mind if she decides she wants to keep the baby. Adoption law information can be obtained on the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau.
Adoption can be either private or public and closed or open. In a private adoption, the birth parents or birth mother works with a doctor, lawyer, clergy member or licensed or unlicensed facilitator to find adoptive parents.
Public adoptions involve placing the baby with a family through an agency that either operates or is contracted by the state.
In a closed adoption, the birth mother’s name and names of the adoptive parents are kept secret from the other party.
In an open adoption, the birth mother has the opportunity to choose the adoptive parents, meet them and have an ongoing relationship with them. Open adoptions are often beneficial for the birth mother in relieving guilt or grief.
Some pregnant teens may choose the option of abortion. Those who do should get all the information they need and not be judged. Abortion is a huge, personal decision that’s never an easy one.
In most cases, teens who involve their parents in their decision get the most benefit. However, the laws vary from state to state, with some states requiring parental notification and others not requiring it.
If you’re a parent whose teen is considering abortion, you should consider the following:
- Learn from your pediatrician about laws that affect abortion and where to find licensed, qualified providers. Both medical and surgical abortions are safe when they’re done by experienced, licensed doctors.
- The cost of abortion services can be an issue for teens. This can lead to a delay, which can complicate an abortion the further the pregnancy has progressed. There may be financial assistance available through the community or state.
- Always be careful before speaking with a “pregnancy crisis center” as they are often not what they seem. Speak with your pediatrician or a doctor recommended by your insurance provider.
Pregnant teens need emotional support no matter what they decide to do. Anything they choose will be highly emotional and life-changing. Acceptance and openness is the best combination to support your teen.