Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing
Imagine waking up as a sixteen-year-old girl, and having to rush into the restroom with morning sickness. Your head is hung over the open toilet lid, and your heart is racing because you have missed a period. As you sneak out to the nearest drugstore and shamefully purchase the pregnancy tests, you pray that no one notices you are there. Shuffling back into the front door of the house, you try to hurriedly make it back to the bathroom without letting mom and dad see what is inside of the bag. Then as soon as you shut the restroom door, you rip open the cardboard box and tear apart the crumply plastic that encases the little pink-white sticks; small, plastic sticks that can completely change your life as you know it. Our state is in the top ten for the highest teen birth rates in the United States (“Stats of the State of Louisiana”), and teenage pregnancy affects thirty-one girls per every one thousand in Louisiana (“Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing”). Not only are every one of these girls affected physically, but their futures and babies also experience social and economic repercussions. The problems of having a child at a young age are the lowered levels of females’ education, the increase in the family’s financial issues, and the increase in the probability of the child being unsuccessful.
The physical effects and risks of teenage childbearing are gruesome. Not only does the nine month pregnancy take an especially large toll on the younger bodies, but it has also been shown that young women are at higher risk than older women are to many complications. Some of these problems include: PROM, Preeclampsia, and Cephalopelvic disproportion (Mundhe 148-149). PROM (prelabor rupture of membranes) is the breaking of the amniotic sac before the beginning of labor. Preeclampsia is a condition that could possibly impair the unborn baby’s kidneys and liver function, cause blood clots, pulmonary edema (fluid in lungs), seizures, and possibly lead to the infant’s death. Lastly, there is cephalopelvic disproportion which is when a baby’s head/body is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis. All of these medical conditions are incredibly terrible for the body, have the possibility to end the teen’s life, and are enough reasons to not have a baby as a teen by themselves.
Not only are there several physical complications with teen pregnancy, there are several social, ethical, and economical complications as well. Thirty percent of all female high school dropouts claim that they left their education behind due to becoming pregnant (Marshall). Although having a higher education like college isn’t necessary to get a job, having a high school diploma is required the majority of the time. Whether someone is applying for a job at McDonald’s or for a receptionist position in a tiny office building, a high school education is helpful. Even if a person were to be hired onto a staff without having finished high school, it would be less likely that they would be the first to be thought of for promotions and special opportunities. Businesses want educated and experienced people in charge of their locations. With this being said, this makes it even more of a challenge for these single mothers to earn enough money to support their families.
Not only do these females work some of the lower paying jobs on the spectrum, but many of them work less hours due to their children at home (Hofferth). This leads to less job promotions and opportunities, as well as leaving lots of women out of a job. For some of these women, finding a new job may be no problem; however, there are women who may not be able to afford interview clothing or have the necessary supplies available to them to apply. At this time, many people would find a local library’s computer and printer to use to apply for a job and put together a resume, yet others may attempt to find “easier” ways out. These paths can occasionally lead to these young ladies lowering their standards and motivation toward their careers. Many of these “lesser” occupations barely pay enough money for these women to feed their kids. This problem not only affects the women, but has a lot to do with the unsuccessful future of their children.
Per the Urban Child Institute, children who are born to teen parents are less likely to learn the basic skills that should be implemented at a young age, more likely to be depressed and emotionally disconnected, and are more likely to repeat their parents’ mistakes (Urban Child Institute). Dr. Bryan Kolb states that, “Brain development is very rapid in the womb and continues at an accelerated rate in the first two to three years [of a child’s life] in particular.” This means that the first few years of a child’s life are the most important for laying down the foundation for their future. Yet devastatingly enough, most children born to teenage parents won’t learn the basic language, cognitive, and behavioral skills needed to succeed. This isn’t always because the mother doesn’t care, but is because she isn’t aware of how to properly prepare and educate her baby boy or girl at home (Urban Child Institute). Either way, instead of learning these foundational skills, the toddlers begin to mimic their parents’ lifestyles; the manner in which they speak, the way they behave in public, and the way they respond to people and certain situations. Research also shows that teen parents are more likely to be harsh to their children for the following reasons: their lack of life experiences, vulnerability to frustration and irritability, and resentment towards the baby (Urban Child Institute). Usually this means young, ill-prepared parents will do more spanking and yelling and other less suggested discipline tactics. A negative effect to this choice in parenting is the increased depression symptoms and underdeveloped social and emotional skills. With all of the mentioned things above being the only things many of these children are taught, they are led to believe that these things are socially correct and decide not to change their practices as they age. In conclusion, the children and parents’ lives may tend to play out similarly as time progresses.
Even though there are many miniscule solutions we could begin to exercise for these problems, lessening teen pregnancy as a whole would wipe out the majority of these problems almost completely. One solution for teenage pregnancy is putting more educational, sexual health classes in schools. Teaching teenagers about the parts of their body and doing the “condom-on-banana” demonstration isn’t cutting it anymore. Schools and local education and government boards need to work together and begin to create a new curriculum that combines the traditional sex-ed and contraceptive education. Many teens who choose to have sex are unaware of all of their options. From condoms, to birth control pills, to arm implants, there are many ways to prevent pregnancies.
A second solution would be to change up the abstinence only pregnancy prevention programs. Many people have been led to believe that the abstinence only education works the best; however, contrary to popular belief, abstinence only education has been found to increase adolescent births (Fox 502). Research has actually found that a combination of abstinence only and safe sex practice education works most effectively at lowering the numbers of pregnant teens (Fox 503). Teaching pregnancy prevention lessons that are more realistic and comprehensible affect teens way more than telling them no and not teaching them much else.
The third solution suggests that parents should definitely encourage their children to wait to have sex, but should help them and be available to them if they are having sex or get pregnant. Most parents go on a rampage when they discover their children are sexually active, but this isn’t the most effective route. Studies have actually shown that teens and children react negatively when treated or disciplined in a negative way (Department of Health). So while parents may be trying to teach the child, they will drive them and their child apart and have a negative effect on their overall relationship. The Urban Child Institute actually shows that a more loving home environment prepares teens for problems they will face later in life, and helps them learn about themselves and the world around them.
Skeptics of more broadly educational sex-ed classes claim that many parents don’t want their child exposed to this in a school setting; however, where would be a better setting? Would you rather want your child to get this information from an educated professional or their friends on a random Saturday night? These classes in schools should be safe places for questions to be answered and more practical information to be shared. The more informed the children are, the less likely they are to become pregnant. Similarly, critics of implementing more comprehensive, adolescent pregnancy preventions programs may say that implementing more mainstream programs will be too expensive and won’t affect the adolescent pregnancy rates as much as abstinence only programs did; yet they are incorrect because if we lessen the overall pregnancy rates, that will eliminate most of the medical funding that is needed; those leftover funds could go towards new programs. And despite what people think, studies showed that abstinence only pregnancy prevention programs had no effect on the teen birth rates (Fox 497).
Taking into consideration all of the problems revolving around teen pregnancy, there should be more steps taken towards ending it all together. Between the negative effects on teenage females bodies, their futures being jeopardized, and their children’s futures being put at risk, this should be a more heavily discussed issue. Many solutions can and should be implemented in the educational and governmental systems. Hopefully then, we can better decrease and diminish teen pregnancy.