If your child is nearing the teen years, it may be time to discuss teen pregnancy. Your daughter or son should know the risks, challenges and lasting impact of having a child during adolescence. Parents, here are four teen pregnancy facts you should know.
1. Teen Pregnancy Rates Are High in the United States
Since 1991, teen pregnancy rates have dropped by more than half, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While teen birth rates are dropping, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is still greater than other Western industrialized countries. Why is that the case? Research suggests teens in the United States use contraception less frequently.
2. Teen Pregnancy Carries Risks for Mother and Baby
All pregnancies have risks. However, teen pregnancy has additional risks to consider. These include:
- Birth defects
- Cephalopelvic disproportion, a rare occurrence when the baby’s head is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis
- Infant death
- Pregnancy-related health issues, including anemia and high blood pressure
- Premature birth or low birth weight
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance abuse
- Difficulties in relationships, including those with family, friends and the baby’s father
- Difficulties in school or dropping out of school completely
- Fewer opportunities for employment because of low education level
- Increased risk of violence within romantic relationships
- Lack of support
- Stigma and rejection from others
3. Parents Can Help Teens Prevent Pregnancy
It’s normal to feel uncomfortable talking about sex with your teen. However, research shows that when parents discuss making healthy sex choices with their teens, they are more likely to wait until an older age to start having sex, have sex less often, use birth control during sex, and have better communication with romantic partners.
Have unfolding conversations about sexual activity from an early age. Don’t rely on others to do it for you. Not all schools offer sexual education classes, and the ones that do may not start until it’s too late. Parents can explain the risks of teen pregnancy early on, guided by their family values.
Let your teen know that the best way to prevent teen pregnancy is to practice abstinence. Even if you encourage your child to wait until he or she is older to have sex, you should also talk about reliable birth control methods and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Your child should know some types of contraception are more effective than others at preventing pregnancy and STDs.
4. Support Is Critical (If Your Teen Should Become Pregnant)
If your teen becomes pregnant, you may feel shocked, upset or anxious. Despite the emotions you may be feeling, it’s important your teen knows you are there for her so that she doesn’t have to go through it alone. It’s OK to feel disappointed or worried at first, but setting these feelings aside can help you focus on the health of your daughter.
You should also set your teen up with a prenatal care provider. The earlier in the pregnancy that your teen gets prenatal care, the less likely she is to experience adverse outcomes. Most teen pregnancy risks come from not receiving adequate health care.