Risk Factors for Adolescent Pregnancy
In 2010, an estimated 614,000 teenagers became pregnant in the United States (Boonstra 15). Teen pregnancy is an ongoing problem occurring at an alarming rate in the United States, so much, that it is exceeding rates of other developing countries. The rates of teen pregnancy are alarming; however, the implications of a teenage pregnancy can be much worse. Teenage pregnancy can be a health risk to mother and baby, financial strain, emotional strain, isolation, and cause loss of relationships as a few examples. Sex education within the school systems have demonstrated an impact on promoting safer sex practices and/or promoting abstinence, each of which contribute to lower teen pregnancies.
However, in 2007, only 38 of 50 states have enacted sex education laws, requiring school systems within that state to provide sex education (Stranger-Hall, Hall 2). Of these states, some school systems are preferring to educate students regarding abstinence only. This has proven to be counterproductive, resulting in an increase of teen pregnancies (Stanger-Hall, Hall 2). Comprehensive education including both abstinence and contraceptive methods were proven to be much more effective in preventing teen pregnancies. Therefore, I feel it is very important teens receive a comprehensive education about sex, pregnancy prevention, sex health, and contraception.
How it works
Through using sex education in school systems, rates of teen pregnancy may be declining, however there are still teens getting pregnant. The United States has the most adolescent pregnancies than other developing countries. “U.S. teens are twice as likely to give birth compared to teens in Canada and ten times as likely as teens in Switzerland” (Danawi, Bryant, and Hasbini 28). The cost per year for teenagers to give birth is roughly 9.4 billion (Danawi, Bryant, and Hasbini 28).
Racial and ethnic minorities within the United States have higher pregnancy rates. The teen pregnancy rate of African American teens in 2010 was almost double white teens. In an analysis on social economics and ethnic diversity in 2005, white teens averaged 48.1 pregnancies per 1000 and African Americans averaged 103.7 per 1000 pregnancies (Stanger-Hall, Hall 4). Cultural differences and how one is brought up can also impact teen pregnancy. Adolescent pregnancy may be common in some cultures, though if teens are exposed to teen motherhood throughout their generation, then they will most likely think that it is an acceptable thing to do. Some cultures may even encourage their teenagers to get pregnant to bond their relationship or keep their boyfriend. All cultures have different views, for the teen to make their own decision they need to become well educated on sex and pregnancy prevention.
There are many factors that can influence teen pregnancies. Income, education, social support system, and living environment are factors that can potentially have an impact on teen pregnancies. In the United States, teen pregnancy rates are linked to income inconsistency. Teens that are less educated are more likely to become adolescent parents. Therefore, if teens live in poorer environments, it will be difficult afford to go to college or further their education. In order to live a fulfilling life, they might decide to have a child. Also, if the teen’s parents didn’t attend college, and the parents don’t encourage them to go to college, teens may think it is the right thing to do is have a baby and follow in their parents’ footsteps. Ones’ social support system is very important for the overall well-being of the adolescent. If the parents are not physically, socially, or mentally involved in the youth’s life, then the youth has a greater risk of becoming pregnant. Evidence shows that if teens understand their parent’s point of view about sex, it also will affect their own behavior. Parents should be a big influence on their teens.
Friends can influence the actions and decisions the teen will make. If teens get with the “wrong crowd” then they may get peer pressured into things they don’t want to do just to fit in. Where the adolescents grow up and how they are raised can have an impact on whether they become pregnant as a teen. If the teen doesn’t have good parental guidance the chances of their teen becoming pregnant can increase. Teen pregnancy is a lifelong commitment, it isn’t something that once they get bored with, they can quit.
There are many consequences that come with adolescent pregnancies. People, who they think are their best friends, may turn out to be the people they distance themselves from. When a teen becomes pregnant, they will find out who their true friends are. Teen parents have so much responsibility, that the time they spend with their friends becomes less and less. No teen is financially prepared or stable enough to raise a child without help from people. It can be very stressful on the teen having to pay for diapers, formula, and all the essentials needed to support them. Some teens are even forced to quit school because they don’t have the adequate help they need for their child while they go to school. There are options that teen parents have: they can keep the baby, give it up for adoption, or abort the baby. It is their decision on what is best for them and their situation. However, these are all hard choices that must be made by them and they must live with the knowledge and/or experience of that choice.
In addition to social and emotional consequences of teen pregnancy, adolescents face higher health risks during and after pregnancy because their bodies are still growing and maturing. Teens who become pregnant have a higher risk of iron deficiency, high blood pressure, toxemia, and preterm births. “Teenage pregnancies are more often associated with neonatal death than stillbirths, due to the fetus growth restrictions associated with teenage gestation” (Johnson 36). In the United States 14% of teen pregnancies result in miscarriage or stillbirth (Johnson 37). It can also cause life long postpartum complications such as urinary incontinence. There are some tribes in Africa where it is not uncommon for 14-year-old girls to begin having children, the unfortunate girls who experience urinary incontinence afterwards are shunned out of the community and sent to fend for themselves in solitude. We are lucky enough to live in a developed country where we have surgeons readily available to perform the repair, however it is a great example of how a teens body is not developed well enough to handle the burden of motherhood.
In efforts to prevent these complications, sex education is needed to help prevent teen pregnancies. Sex education programs teach teens how to prevent pregnancy and about sex health. A nationwide analysis on comprehensive sex education, educated abstinence as the suggested behavior. It also educated teens about how contraceptive methods work in decreasing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. “There is now clear evidence that comprehensive sex education programs can change the behaviors that put young people at risk of pregnancy” (Boonstra 17).
These programs delay sexual activity, decrease the number of partners, increase contraceptive use and reduce risky sexual decisions. Many teens are not comfortable enough talking to their parents about sex, so by having sex education in schools, it will help teens learn about sex, contraceptives, and sexual transmitted diseases without them having to feel awkward by talking to their parents about it. Furthermore, some parents refuse to have the “sex talk” altogether in fear that it will give their teen an open invitation to sex. This is not true. The goal of sex education isn’t to promote sexual behavior it is to ultimately reduce teen pregnancies and inform teens about the ramifications of having sex. With having sex education in schools, the teens will gain knowledge about sex and all the important information about it. Evidence shows that comprehensive programs results in promoting youth health and well-being.
However, only 38 out of the 50 states in 2007 had sex education laws requiring education within the school systems (Stanger-Hall, Hall 2). You would think that from a financial perspective that the Government would take a more aggressive approach towards sex education as a bare minimum in efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies- as it was previously mentioned, the annual price of teen pregnancies is over 9 billion. The estimated cost to provide sex education nationally within school systems is 5.4 billion dollars. I don’t understand why the United States wouldn’t consider this a cost saving measure that improves the quality of life for a large percentage of their population.
It’s been found that providing contraceptives to young woman from a lower socioeconomic status prevents pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute reported that the national family planning program has done this and has been preventing 400,000 teen pregnancies every year (Boonstra Too many times teens follow old myths like “the pull-out method.” In turn this misinformation leads to more teen pregnancies. However, if they are educated enough to use protection, condoms are the number one method used to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The birth control pill is still common but long-lasting reversible methods like the IUD (intrauterine device) and depo shot are becoming more popular.
The depo shot and IUD are more attractive to young women because of the low maintenance, last much longer in duration, and convenience. Whereas the birth control pill must be taken every day at the same time, will be ineffective with missed doses or if she is placed on antibiotics. Evidence shows that better contraceptive use is connected to the decline in adolescent pregnancy rates. As previously mentioned, birth control pills come with a lot of instructions and rules of how to properly use them to be effective. If the teen does not have the knowledge that antibiotics work against the birth control and is prescribed them for a simple bacterial infection, then she is at risk of becoming pregnant and does not know to use back up methods of contraception. Other simple measures such as how to properly place a condom so that it reduces the chances of it breaking can go a long way. Or use of a spermicide with condoms break down the condom making it more susceptible to tearing. IUDs leave girls more susceptible to devastating consequences of sexual transmitted infections such as inflammatory pelvic disease- which can cause the girl to have infertility down the road.
These are just a few great examples of why the quality of sex education needs to be good and it needs to be comprehensive. More often it is seen that parents are more likely to be closed off when it comes to matters of educating their own teens about sex, making it harder for the teen to approach them for knowledge and/or assistance in acquiring contraceptives. However, there are some parents that play and active role in educating their teens. And often in these situations, they will provide and/or help in their decision about protection and sex education. If more parents took this path more teens would be aware and better educated.
Despite the high rates of United States teen pregnancy, to this day, teen pregnancy rates are at an all-time low. It has been proven that the main factor in the overall decline is because of extensive contraceptive use. Today more teens are aware about what the consequences of pregnancy are, and it drives them to obtain better knowledge and understanding of prevention. With sex prevention information becoming more widespread, some teens are gaining insight of what could lie ahead. They want better for themselves and their future children, then maybe what they had. Family planning services that are available through Planned Parenthood (and other clinics) assist them in this regard. Many of these clinics provide lost cost to free contraceptives to teens. They are equipped with educative brochures and have knowledgeable staff to provide much needed sexual education to their patients. Thankfully, there are services like this offered. And they are changing lives every day.
The government has funded abstinence only sex education for more than 10 years (Stanger- Hall, Hall 1). But the public debate remains whether this is a sound investment. The controversy is over whether this abstinence only programs should be continued because questions remain if it is even successful. Abstinence only programs have been researched within all the states with the data adjusted to account for differentiating life factors such as: economic status, social status, and the education attained by teens. The study insinuates that abstinence only education is not effective. In turn, this may be a factor in higher teen pregnancy rates in the in the United States.
Therefore, I agree with those who are lobbying on capitol hill demanding that schools incorporate a combination curriculum of diverse sex education along with sexually transmitted infection (STI) information. A lot of the education that is being provided within school systems is occurring in the 4th and 5th grade. Kids this age generally are not sexually active and do not necessarily even know what the other genders genitalia may be. I believe that the education should also be provided to an appropriate and relevant audience: young teens. In junior high and high school classes teens would be able to personally identify more easily with the concepts of what is sexual at-risk behavior while helping teens plan for a successful future. It is very important to give these teens as much education and opportunity we can to try to prevent pregnancies. If we fail, these teen parents have many obstacles they must face throughout their life.
Becoming a parent while I was a teen, I am a perfect example. I became pregnant when I was fourteen after the first time, I had sex. I used protection, but it failed because I did not know the proper way to use it. And as this was my first sexual encounter, I wasn’t knowledgeable on the contraceptives available. Sex education was offered through the school when I was in fifth grade. It taught us about menstruation, the girls and boys were in different rooms, and I it did not outline any sexual guidance to my memory. Yes, education about menstruation and puberty is very helpful, however I feel that a sex education program would’ve been much more effective in my teen years. Had I known how to properly protect myself, I could’ve avoided the struggles I went through as a fifteen-year-old girl. I was clueless, lost, and confused. I remember thinking why me, why am I the only one this happened to. I was the first teen pregnancy in the surrounding area in over a decade.
One particularly painful memory of that time in my life, was when I had to tell my dad I was pregnant (I am daddy’s little girl), he looked me straight in the eyes with tears rolling down his face and said, “you ruined your life”. From that moment on, I was focused on proving him wrong. I would show him that I wasn’t going to let having a baby at fifteen ruin my life. I had my son at the end of August. I took two weeks off from my sophomore year of high school and had to go back. Most woman are allowed 3 months of maternity leave, however, when it comes being a teen in high school, my school was not prepared or had any set policy of how to handle my situation. It wasn’t easy and if it wasn’t for my excellent support system, I had I would never be where I am today. My mom got up all through the night with my son and babysat him during the week, when weekends came it was all up to me. I was lucky in that instance, not all teens will have parents that can stay at home and help watch the child. This may leave the teen in a position where they may have to drop out of school due to day care issues.
I didn’t have a normal “teen life” I didn’t get to hang out with my friends after school or on weekends. My number one priority was my son; however, you are also a child and can become frustrated because you don’t know what to do when your child is screaming at two AM in the morning and the only person, they want is you. There were many nights my son would be crying, and I would be holding him crying right with him wishing he came with an instruction manual. Even with the amount of social support I had, I was still overwhelmed. I could not imagine what it would be like for a teen to have no support, no guidance on how to raise a child. This a reality some teens face and it truly scares me.
The shame I felt when I was pregnant, and the looks people gave me were heart wrenching. I was embarrassed to leave my house the further along I got. I didn’t want anybody to see me because I knew they would be talking about me. I went through a stage when I sat and would wonder if I would ever amount to anything. I remember thinking asking myself if I could do it. I was fourteen taking drivers ed with my belly hitting the steering wheel, I wasn’t even old enough to drive and I was going to be a mom.
If it weren’t for my mom and my sister, I would have never been able to do it. My mom is and always has been my hero. She would tell me I was going to be ok when I felt like the whole world was against me. She reminded me daily that my life was just beginning. Back then, I thought she was crazy, no way was my life just beginning. I was the outcast, everybody was going to look at me different (or so I thought). I had the best support system on my side and still do. My sister is five years older than me, and she would take the morning duty with my son, so I could get ready for school. She would change, feed, and bathe him for me. She was and still is a saint. She was young herself and was more than willing to help in any way she could so that I could graduate high school.
I continued to play volleyball through high school, and I graduated with honors. Which was a huge accomplishment for me. After I graduated from high school, I signed up for college right away. I was determined to still do what I had always dreamt of and that was to become a nurse. I finished two semesters with a C average, with trying to juggle being a college student and mother, it was overwhelming just to finish the courses as it was. I started my third semester and went through a rough breakup from my son’s father and decided that I had to focus on supporting my son and me. I got a full-time job and put college on the back burner. I made countless more sacrifices to make a life for my son and me without ever knowing if I would be able to reach all my life goals and dreams.
Fast forward twelve years later, I am married with three more children added to our family. I decided last March that I wanted to show my kids that it is never too late to make your dreams come true. With all these good intentions, I did not realize the uphill mountain I was about to climb. I went to the college and sat down with an advisor to see where I was and what I had to do to start back to school. I had a lot of work to do to get my GPA up to even consider going for nursing. With hard work and dedication, I am now about a year away from being able to apply for the nursing program. It has been rough, but I will do it. Even though, I am accomplishing my dreams now, my story is not the rule, but an exception. Not all women who were originally teen mothers are going to be as determined in putting forth the effort to put their dreams back on track. It is truly an uphill battle every day, raising a family, running a household and trying to be a full-time student who must academically prove herself worthy after damage done when I was just a kid myself trying to raise a kid. These are harsh realities that are bitter sweet.
Even now if it weren’t for the support system I have I can’t say I would have had the courage to go back to school. If all goes as planned, I will graduate college the same year my oldest son graduates high school. It hasn’t been easy being a teen mom by any means and still isn’t today with my son being a sophomore in high school I am the “young mom” that doesn’t know anything. I still get asked when we go places if he is my brother, my response is always “No, I just had him young”, with a smile on my face. I am so proud of my son and if it weren’t for me getting to meet him a little sooner in life than I had planned then I wouldn’t have had the struggles I did growing up as a teen mom leading into the amazing life I have today- this is where it becomes bitter sweet. It is hard to understand sometimes if you have not personally gone through it. My son made me who I am today, and I get to grow with my son.
Teen pregnancy will always be an issue, whether the teen pregnancy rates are high or low. There will always be teens that aren’t educated enough or don’t get the access to contraceptives they need. My life could’ve been much different if I was given proper education about pregnancy prevention and safer sex practices during my early teens. Remember, I became pregnant on my first sexual encounter. It only takes one time and your whole life is changed. As a country, I feel that we can be doing more to help secure a successful future for our youth. The government is already funding sexual education, why not expand it to every state and revamp the curriculum not only to be comprehensive, but age appropriate. Additional advice as gone through a teen pregnancy is, take advantage of planned parenthood facilities. If you have questions don’t hesitate to ask them, that is what the programs are there for. My life is a prime example of what it is like for a teen parent.