It is universally agreed that pregnancy marks a time of dramatic transition in a woman’s life. The change is even more drastic when the expected mother is a teenager. For an adult woman pregnancy marks the phase of psychological and physiological transformation, viewed in positive and encouraging aspects that are associated with motherhood (Trad .1999).
However, for a teenager, the same pregnancy posits health risks, presenting a time of crisis during which teenager undergoes psychological upheaval, and health complications magnifying the effects of pregnancy when the expectant mother is an adolescent. This article looks in two health related factors for young/teenage mothers and the ways to approach the issue from a correct medical-clinical point of view.
The health risks of pregnancy
Adolescent pregnancy has attracted attention of medical as well as social and developmental activists due to the complexity of issues involved. The problem of teenage pregnancy contains two principle dimensions -health of teenage mother and health of child. According to available Statistics the teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S. are at the highest level among Western nations.
An estimated 96 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year (Repke, 1990). From the lack of knowledge about birth control, cultural differences that place esteem on adolescent motherhood, drug and alcohol abuse and the combination of psychological factors such as teenager’s sense of impulsivity, adventure and attempts to assert independence are likely causes that result in such high rates of teenage pregnancy in US.
Teenage Pregnancy: Trends and Effects
Teenage girls from many communities engage in early sexual activity leading to higher rates of adolescent pregnancy. Moreover teenagers are also the least likely age group to practice contraception, leading to increase in teenage pregnancy rates.
Studies have shown that through 1980s, 45% of young girls aged between15 and 19 had sexual initiation before marriage and of them, approximately 36% became pregnant before marriage, and during their pregnancy(Davis, 1989). . It is reported that there are one million case of teenage pregnancy in USA every year, where more than half of them result in live births, around four hundred thousand end in elective abortions, and the rest end in abortion (Winter ; Simmons, 1990).
Of these million pregnancy a staggering 85% are unplanned, and of all the live births, 97% of teenage mothers keep their infants (Trad .1999). Under the government health programs, teenager mothers and newborn infants are provided large scale subsidies, due to which the society bears an estimated cost of $20 billion annually (Hardy, 1988; Johnson, Lay, ; Wilbrandt, 1988).
Teenage pregnancy has debilitating effect on mental and psychological health of the young girls. The problems of adolescent mothers’ problems intensify particularly during the prenatal and antenatal periods, which are the critical period from health point of view.
The problem is further aggravated by the fact that prenatal medical care is frequently delayed or even when it is delivered, the delivery standards are inadequate. It is found that 50% of pregnant teenagers remain without any medical care during the first trimester, more than 10% receive no care during the first and second trimesters, and 2.4% do not receive care any time during the pregnancy, creating factors of increased health risk in teenage pregnancy (Pomeranz, Matson, and Nelson 1991),.
Teenage pregnancy issue is also complicated the high incidences of sexually transmitted diseases that cause increased risk of preterm labor and low infant birth weight. It is found that 20 percent of infants born to mothers under 15 years of age and 9.4% of infants born to mothers between15 to 19 years have a low birth weight, causing problems in their normal growth and development (CDC).
The contrast with adult mothers (over 20 years of age) is apparent where, only 6.4% of infants are of low birth weight. Low weight at time of birth is responsible for increased levels of neonatal morbidity and mortality (van Winter & Simmons, 1990).
There are emotional and psychological stability as well that are involved in teenage pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time of great changes in emotional makeup of an the expectant mother, even when she may be an adult married woman, with full family and institutional support.
It is easy to understand the traumatic impact pregnancy would have upon a teenage girl who is bereft of any social-material and often family support, with yet developing physiological and emotional maturity.
This lack of maturity and absence of supportive structure leads to a development arrest the pregnant teenager may engage in drug abuse, alcohol abuse and further promiscuity, endangering their health.