The Emotional and Social Effects of Teen Pregnancy

The Problem of Teen Pregnancy

Nearly one million teens find themselves pregnant every year, and about 40% of all young women in the United States will experience at least one pregnancy before their 20th birthday (Teenage pregnancy statistics gleaned from Facts in Brief: Teen Sex and Pregnancy, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York, 1996).

While society tends to glamorize teen pregnancy (think Secret Life of the American Teenager, MTV's Sixteen and Pregnant , Juno, and the recent celebrity of teen mom Bristol Palin), the reality is far from spectacular.

I'm certainly not suggesting that we should ostracize young, single girls who become pregnant, as the Puritans did in the 17th century, but we also should not celebrate teen pregnancy as a goal that every young woman should try to achieve.

Why? Simply because teen pregnancy can be very painful and difficult for everyone involved.

A human embryo at about eight weeks gestation. This is about the time of the first prenatal visit. The baby's heart is already beating, and you can already see the baby's eye, arms, and legs start to form.
A human embryo at about eight weeks gestation. This is about the time of the first prenatal visit. The baby's heart is already beating, and you can already see the baby's eye, arms, and legs start to form. | Source

CBS News Discussion of Teen Pregnancy Pact

Here's a fictional tale I wrote about a pregnant teen named Noelle. It's available now on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1pGBn8q
Here's a fictional tale I wrote about a pregnant teen named Noelle. It's available now on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1pGBn8q | Source

The Harm to the Mother

Many teenage girls are terrified when they find out they are pregnant, unless they happen to have made a pregnancy pact, as did the girls discussed in this CBS News video.

They often don't know who to turn to. Most don't want to admit to their parents that they got pregnant, especially if their parents are particularly strict. And many may be rejected by their boyfriends if they try to talk to them about the pregnancy.

This feeling that there is nowhere to go and no one to turn to is often what causes many young women to run to the nearest abortion clinic as soon as they find out they're expecting. And if the girl doesn't choose to do that, then she is faced with a number of difficult decisions. Will she keep the baby or put it up for adoption? Will she finish school or drop out? If she does decide to keep the baby, how will she support it if she doesn't finish school? But the emotional costs of the pregnancy pale in comparison to what the physical costs could be.

Girls who get pregnant at an especially young age are at a much higher risk or running into complications simply because their bodies are not yet developed enough to support growing another life. Pregnancy is not exactly easy on any woman's body, but it can be especially difficult for a teen's.

And the fact that many teens are embarrassed about their condition or afraid of their parents' reactions may prevent some from seeking good prenatal care. This can lead to health problems for the pregnant mother like high blood pressure and anemia, and these maternal health problems could cause problems for the baby.

Abortion Definition

Abortion: Induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus.

Most states in the United States allow a mother to have an abortion up until about 20-24 weeks into gestation.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/

20-week Ultrasound Image

This is what a developing fetus looks like at 20 weeks gestational age. At this point, most women can tell whether they will be having a girl or a boy.
This is what a developing fetus looks like at 20 weeks gestational age. At this point, most women can tell whether they will be having a girl or a boy. | Source

The Harm to the Father

Often, the ones who are getting the teenage girls pregnant are teenage boys. These boys seldom consider the consequences of their actions. They just focus on the feel-good aspect of sex. When confronted with the fact that they have created a new life, many will feel overwhelmed and may try to run from the situation. This break in the relationship could be painful for both young parents.

Those who don't run are faced with the very real task of taking care of an unplanned family. The father of a child is responsible for child support in every state in the nation. Because of this increased responsibility, many young men may feel pressured to marry the young pregnant woman, and this could also cause problems for the couple. Pressure and guilt are not good feelings with which to begin any relationship, let alone one that is supposed to last a lifetime. The feeling of being pressured into a marriage could lead to feelings of resentment later for both parties.

At least 60 percent of teen marriages end in divorce within 5 years ("Teenage Couples: Caring, Change, and Commitment", by Jeanne Warren Lindsay). Divorce hurts everyone involved, including the child that was the reason the parents got married in the first place. Children often feel responsible when their parents get divorced, and knowing that their mom and dad only got married because mom was pregnant with him/her may cause those guilt feelings to be even stronger.

The Harm to the Baby

As noted above, teen mothers often do not receive good prenatal care. As a result of this, they may not gain enough weight during their pregnancies. This lack of weight gain can cause the baby to have a low birth weight, which is associated with all sorts of problems, like developmental disorders and even a high rate of infant death.

Babies born to teen mothers are often malnourished and have limited access to decent health care. They rarely receive adequate social or cognitive stimulation. This can negatively impact their intellectual development and can lead to poor school performance later on.

Further, studies have shown that children born to teen mothers experience higher rates of abuse and neglect and often turn to crime as a way of expressing themselves and getting what they want. These children often experience troubled romantic relationships when they are older, and girls born to teen mothers are very likely to become teen mothers themselves, thus repeating the destructive pattern.

Some Teen Pregnancy Resources

The Harm to the Grandparents

Parents who receive the news that their teenage daughter (or son) is going to have a baby may feel a whole range of emotions: shock, denial, rage, and even joy that they are going to be grandparents.

But grandparents of babies born to teen mothers may also have some difficult decisions to make. How willing are they to be involved in raising the baby? Do they want their daughters and sons to continue with their schooling? If this is the case, a lot of the early child care responsibilities may fall to the grandparents.

The grandparents may also feel obligated to provide financial help, and while this might not be a bad short-term plan, the financial involvement needs to be monitored closely. The baby's mother and father may become dependent on this financial support, and it will be harder for them to learn how to support themselves and their new family.

Whatever they do, grandparents need to be supportive of both mom and dad because this is a scary situation for everyone. They also need to remember that it is not the baby's fault that this has happened, so they shouldn't take their anger out on their grandchild.

It may be difficult at times to be the only adult in such an adult situation, so grandparents need to be prepared to guide their children in their premature assumption of adult responsibility in order to keep the whole family together.

Let's Get Personal

Do you know a teen mother personally?

See results without voting

How Can Teen Pregnancy Be Avoided?

As bleak a picture as this hub presents of teen pregnancy, it is important to remember that this is just an example of what could happen. Many teen moms do really well for themselves and their children, with or without the support of the baby's father.

Still, it is a shame that so many young women and men are forced into assuming such an adult responsibility so early in life. It would be a good idea to teach our daughters and sons the truth about sex and the consequences it can bring. It may also be necessary to restrict their dating to public places with trusted chaperones, so that they will not be alone, where temptation can be acted upon. Teens who are not ever alone together are much less likely to have sex; therefore, they will not have to grow up too fast. They can take the time to be children themselves.

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Comments 26 comments

glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

This is a very interesting and scientific look at this issue, and I think that the facts that you have provided are very convincing. Thank you for this Hub and for sharing this information.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Thanks for reading, glassvisage. Glad you enjoyed it.


cold hearted profile image

cold hearted 5 years ago

i think i have benefited from this issue . and thank you for the info


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Thanks for reading, cold hearted.


phoenixarizona profile image

phoenixarizona 5 years ago from Australia

Hi workingmomwm. I appreciate you writing this fantastic hub! I personally am (or should I say was?) a teenage mother. I was treated rather cruelly by my parents and was expected to just go out, find a place to live and support my child. I resented that back then, now I am greatful for it. My child is now ten, has never been abused or neglected and when asked if she would like to have children she says "not until I have a good job and have seen the world first." Hopefully this mantra will stay true for the next six years and the only announcement she will make in that time is "I passed my exams!"

Your hub is truly wonderful and I hope that this will prevent any future teen pregnancies. Not because the teenagers getting pregnant are bad people but because the life of a teenage mother is a difficult one.

Thankyou for writing such an informative hub!


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, phoenixarizona, and thank you for commenting. It's nice to get a perspective from someone who was a teen mom. I was not, thank goodness. I don't think I would've been a very good one!

I certainly didn't mean to imply that teens who get pregnant are bad people. I don't believe that at all. I really just wanted to get the message across that having a baby is difficult for anyone, but can be especially so for someone so young. Teenage girls should be running around having fun and planning their own future, not worrying about how they're going to support another human being for the rest of their life!


NateSean profile image

NateSean 5 years ago from Salem, MA

Very good points and excellent hub. Although I should point out that the ostracizing of teen parents is still going on as strongly today as it was in the 17th century.

Of course you've definitely made that point pretty clear, especially in mentioning the poor prenatal health care.


jacob adams profile image

jacob adams 5 years ago from malaysia

I believe that Sex Education should continue in schools because the program teaches young adults about some sexual things that parents would never talk about with their children. One of my friends had sex for the first time and that was in fifth grade and now she is a mother of twins living with her parents and the first thing she said she was going to do was talk to her child about sex. I teach about sex and I'm only 16 but i teach it because some teens will listen to their peers but not to adults about a touchy subject such as that and people always ask me if i get embarrassed and I said only the first few times but I got over it.

I have been educated in sex for about 6 years now and I still don't understand it all and people ask what "it" feels like and I have a great answer and that is "I don't know I've never done it i'm only 16 and still in school for another 2 years."

It was odd though when adults ask me about certain things and I have an answer that they didn't know. And that is why I do it


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Nate: Sorry it's taken me so long to respond! Yes, the ostracizing does continue to a certain degree, although I don't think it's as widespread as it was in Puritan times. The glamorizing aspect seems to be taking over now. What we need is a balance between the two!

Jacob: Thanks for your comments. I do agree to an extent that sex education should continue in schools, but it needs to be taught at home, too. Far too often, parents leave all the most important things to be taught by the teachers when they need to be telling their children themselves. And I agree that peer teaching is also important - as long as it is done with wisdom (I never got much wise peer teaching when I was that age!). The only solution for parents is to start talking to their children about sex early - when they're still listening!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

When I was a young mother of a toddler and infant the tiny newspaper that was delivered to our community ran a story about how the planned parenthood clinic was being closed. However, in that community the number of teen pregnancies and welfare mothers was staggering. I wrote a long letter to the editor which was published in its entirety, stating similar points that were in defense of Sex Education. Teen pregnancies are never a benefit, in my opinion. And, although the baby may in itself be a blessing, the effects of the pregnancy on all parties is a far reaching tragedy overall.

Well written hub. Thanks for sharing!


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Denise. It's such a shame that teen pregnancy rates were on a 10-year decline until about 2006, then they started rising again. Some news stories have suggested, though, that MTV's Sixteen and Pregnant is actually encouraging another decline!


1stPhotoInvites profile image

1stPhotoInvites 5 years ago

This is actually one of the problems in the US.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Um, yes. It definitely is one of the problems. That's why I wrote this hub.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Thanks, James.


The black mist profile image

The black mist 5 years ago from united states

yes sex ed. should be taught in schools but when i was in middle school i found out that they don't do that in the high schools, why? idk... but they should, yes they stick you with a computerized baby that cry's every 20 minutes but that is just to teach you or at least try to teach you what its like to be a mother.

Even then babies don't cry every 20 minutes i would know i helped raise my baby cousins.

the point is some schools will actually care to teach sex ed. and some school don't but, everything always begins at home.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Hmm ... Computerized babies? I never experienced that. Must be new.

As for REALLY teaching you what it's like to be a mother, I don't think classroom teachers could legally do that. They'd be brought up on charges of child abuse, assault and battery, and all sorts of things!


breathe2travel profile image

breathe2travel 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

Voted useful and up! Great hub... good suggestion.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Thanks very much! :-)


Prickly Flower profile image

Prickly Flower 5 years ago from Netherlands

Great hub, clearly outlining the problems teen parents may have to face. I was a teen mother myself (even though I was using contraceptives) and I was lucky to be able to finish school and go to college with the help of my family, my friends and my teachers and my son's father.

Sex education is very important I think. It is very important that teens learn how to cope with everything related to sex. Not just the technicalities, but also how to withstand peer pressure, how to wait until they feel save and sure about the person they are going to sleep with. When they can talk freely about that, they often feel less inclined to succumb to pressure put upon them by others.

Not sure chaperoning would really work though. Teens have ways to work around that and in the area where I live, teen pregnancy occurs the most in the most strict communities.

I totally agree that the glamourising of teen pregnancy is a very bad thing. Even though I wouldn't have had it any other way myself, I would not recommend it to anyone. It has brought me great joy and made me finally realise I had to start thinking about the future and stop being a moping teen, but it has also denied me of many opportunities and I missed certain things in my development to an adult I feel.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Hi, Prickly Flower. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you for sharing your experiences!


Mike 5 years ago

Thank goodness for you and this hub, it is hard to find any good information about teenage pregnancy on the internet that does not just talk about how to deal with one. Young adults often have no idea about the power of human sexuality, and the difficulties it can bring.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Thanks, Mike. I agree!


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 4 years ago from Canada

This is an excellent article that points out the reality behind the glamour. I am glad that we don't ostracize young girls anymore but we should not take it so far as to glorify it, either. It is so true that many are effected including the baby whose care may be compromised. Thanks for writing. Voted up and more.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Hi, prairieprincess. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you liked it! :-)


shaequan 4 years ago

it is the girls fault too she would allow the boy to do whatever


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

This is not a blame game. The girl and the boy are (usually, except in the case of rape) both equal partners in this. It takes two to have sex. He can't make the decision not to sleep with the girl, or to take the responsibility to put on a condom or make sure that she's on birth control?

Teen pregnancy is not anyone's "fault." It's the real result of some hasty decisions that lead to some major consequences. You might want to rethink your position, shaequan.

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