Are you or someone you know dealing with teen pregnancy?
While this can be a tough time, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Read on to learn how to cope and even thrive in this testing time
You are a teen and have all the normal concerns of those years: pimples, grades, and crushes.
Then enter teen pregnancy and your world takes a cataclysmic shift.
No longer is your primary goal in life getting the keys for the car on Friday night. Now your world is filled with fear and not the normal teenage fear of rejection or failing your chemistry test.
You fear the pain of labor, telling your parents and what happens now not only with the baby‘s Daddy but also with your life.
Dreams about college, travel or even prom and high school graduation drift away in an instant.
You have a world of choices before you. It is time to take a few seconds and just breathe. You are going to be a mother.
Not that motherhood was your intention, but it is your reality. Pregnancy during teen years is almost never planned, but once the test comes back positive there is an awful lot of planning ahead for you.
You don’t need a lecture or an admonition. What you need is real advice. You need to know your options and how to plan for the new future that stretches before you.
The statistics of teen pregnancy are not pretty. They predict a bleak future for you. Less than 1/3 of all teen moms ever finish high school.
The bummer educational news keeps rolling with the rate of teenage moms completing college being only 1.5% by the age of 30.
This does not have to be your reality. But you will have to swallow a huge dose of reality to make your dreams and teen motherhood jive.
First things first, however. What you really need is good advice from the word go. After the pregnancy test comes back positive there are several things you need to do as soon as possible.
First you need to tell the people who are affected by this news and start building a support network.
The people, beside yourself who need to know are the baby’s dad and your parents.
How you tell the baby’s dad depends on a load of factors: how do you feel about the baby’s father, are you certain who dad is, and how much support or involvement are you expecting from him?
For these reasons it is a toss-up as to whom you should tell first: the baby’s dad or your parents.
Telling girl friends is somewhere very low on the priority list.
While you may feel most comfortable telling your best friend, she is not likely to be the most productive source of help.
Hopefully, telling your parents first will give you the benefit of their additional life’s experience to draw upon when you break the news to dad and his parents.
This is especially true because it is recommended that you not worry your potential teen father with the news unless you are positive beyond any doubt that there is news to tell.
Your parents can help you get to a doctor and confirm your teen pregnancy before you go to the baby’s daddy.
If you decide to tell dad on your own be prepared for anything.
Your boyfriend might not take the news in any way you could possibly anticipate.
The emotions of a teenage boy receiving the news from his teenage girl that she is having his baby will range from one end of the spectrum to the other.
He could panic, be happy, deny his paternity, get angry, blame you or just shut down showing no measurable emotion at all.
This is one of the tough scenarios in a teen pregnancy.
Men, even young teenaged ones, don’t generally publish their feelings on their sleeves, so don’t expect him to tell you how he really feels right way.
In that way he is not so different from you. Remember when your doctor told you that you were pregnant – you probably went through several emotions before you settled on one clear and predominate feeling about the news.
He will need time to process and you may not be welcome during the decompression time.
In addition to being certain there is news to tell, you need to have the situation right.
Don’t just blurt the news out in a high traffic area, like the hallways at school or at a party. Call him and tell him you have something important to discuss.
(Dropping this bomb in a text message, voice mail or even over the phone is not appropriate. Make certain you have a face to face meeting.)
When you do meet, get right to business. Waiting will only make the moment more uncomfortable and drawn out. Start out by saying something like “I have some important news. I’m pregnant and you are the father.”
If you have made any other concrete plans with your parent’s help or guidance, such as asking for financial assistance or his hands on involvement, you can discuss it further with the baby’s daddy if he is in the mood to talk.
If the meeting with him does not go well, or even if it does, leave the lines of communication open. He may come back with a complete reversal of his first position.
Give him time to process and work through his emotions the same way you did when you first found out.
One of the things that must be done when a teen pregnancy occurs, is the parents must be told.
Now, telling mom and dad that you are going to have their grandbaby at any age ending in teen or without a wedding preceding the news is not high on anyone’s dream list.
But tell them you must, because babies have a way of announcing themselves sooner or later.
Your teen pregnancy and the months afterward will be much easier with your parents serving as your support team for the decisions and life experiences between now and then.
First off, remember that your parents are imperfect, but as imperfect as they are they are on your side. Parents universally want the very best for their kids.
They want to help. All the rules, conditions and lectures really are meant to benefit you, even if you resent it or think they are just trying to ruin your life.
When you break the news to your folks, there is not going to be an ideal time when their lives are free of other stresses.
It is best just to tell them as soon as possible, even when all you have is suspicions.
They can help you make those next, and often very important, first steps into pregnancy and motherhood.
To break the news to your folks you need to be certain you have their attention. Don’t just drop the news on the dinner table one night along with the napkins.
Start out slowly. Tell your mom and dad you need to talk to them. Request an appointment time with them when you can have their undivided attention.
When the time comes start off telling them that you need their help. Feel free to tell them how you feel: scared, uncertain, nervous.
Start off some way like this: Mom, Dad, I really need your help. I’m scared. I don’t want to make you angry or disappoint you. I’m pregnant, or at least I think I might be. I need your help.
Starting off telling them how you feel and asking for their help will soften them and let them know you want them on your side. You should be understanding.
Predicting parental reaction to news like this is difficult. Some parents will take the news in stride falling right into place as your greatest supporters and fans.
Others will take it as a personal failure on their part: where did they go wrong?
This feeling of failure might boil over as anger or hurt.
Whatever their initial reaction, no matter how good or bad, you can’t take it personally. They are human, and if they take the news badly it is not your problem. It is theirs.
You can bet there will be some rocky patches with your parents to wade through between now and your due date. But this is part of the teen/parent reality even without pregnancy.
Once your parents are in the know, they will have many questions. Let them ask. You will find the less defensive you get the better the conversation will go.
Try to think of how this conversation would go if you were telling one of your girlfriends.
She might not ask the same questions as your folks, but she is going to ask you some questions. You aren’t going to question her motives. Questions are part of the conversation.
Answer their questions and ask a few of your own.
If the conversation takes a turn to the ugly, with yelling, anger or hostility, take a break and come back later. This does not mean storming out.
It means using your calm words and rescheduling your meeting for a later time and date once your folks have some time to digest the information.
Tell your folks the news, then let the chips fall where they may.
Don’t let yourself take on their emotions. This is only the first of the giant strides forward in your maturity level you will need to make as an expecting teen mom.
Being able to communicate with your parents, and getting the support you need without internalizing their negative reactions will serve you well.
The home front shake-up is only the first of many places where you will need to put the newfound skill of letting the judgments of others slide right off without evoking a reaction from you into action.
You have better things to worry about than the gossip or small feelings of others.
The lists of how much teen pregnancy costs the government in funding or special programs is staggering, but that doesn’t matter much to you the teen mom.
What is your out of pocket cost going to be? On average the cost of baby from birth to 12 months is about $8,500.00.
This figure does not include hospital or doctor bills for labor and delivery, nor does it include the cost of formula. Infant formula can add another $1,200 to the total.
The bottom line is that having a baby is very expensive. Not many teens make this kind of money. The average teen between the ages of 12 and 14 years makes only $2,167.
Older teens, ages 15-17, make nearly twice as much ($4,023), but even that number is less than half the amount needed to cover the costs of bringing home baby.
During the course of your teen pregnancy you are going to need some help.
The cost of disposable diapers is not the normal idea dominating the thoughts of a 15 year old, but you will need to start thinking about these things.
Is a teen pregnancy a good reason to quit school?
The tempting thing to do is to drop out of school to get a full time job. Many teen moms do just that, but this is only a very short term solution.
The earnings potential of working for any business willing to hire a High School dropout is not that great. The hours and working conditions will be likewise lackluster.
In addition to the less than glamorous prospect of wearing a hair net and plastic name tag for the next 18 years, the news gets worse.
A minimum wage job will make the bills for now, but what happens when those bills get bigger?
Because they do.
Babies cost a bunch, but tweens and teens cost even more.
Instead of making the short term pay check, make the long term sacrifice of staying in school. Think of making good grades your new job.
The better you do in school the more money you will make to support both you and your baby for the years that come.
Your costs of raising your child for the first year are going to go up as the baby grows.
If you haven’t done so already, you need to sit down and make a plan for your future.
A clearly outlined plan for your education will place the path for you to walk so you can achieve goals that will benefit your future.
Planning for your future is much easier with a larger support team.
Whatever happens in the short term of telling the baby’s daddy and your parents, you need to keep your eyes and goals on the longer term perspective.
This means you need to add a few more members to your teen pregnancy support group.
Next is a two-pronged invitation for help: one is to assemble your prenatal team and the next is to include a school counselor in your situation.
Your school has counselors on staff for a reason.
If you have never spoken to one yet, now is the time to start talking. The sooner you talk to your school’s counselor the more options will be available to you.
To finish High School on time will take planning, because babies take up a lot of time and post partum healing will put you out of commission for a few weeks.
This means it is best to start making plans for school work as soon as possible.
You have many options: home school, Internet study, concurrent enrollment and just making up the work load from regular classes. Some schools even have special schools just for teen moms.
But in order for you to know what your options are and how you can stay on track for graduation you need to talk to your counselor.
The help a counselor can offer goes beyond high school graduation.
In mainly cases your high school guidance counselor can get you information on colleges, vocational schools and even scholarships, grants and financing options so you can get your higher education degree and still afford shoes for the new wee one.
Another major benefit of having any type of counselor in your corner is the insight and perspective they can provide.
Your counselor is not emotionally invested the same way your parents or boyfriend and his family are.
They can help you communicate with these different groups of people, and provide insight into what they are thinking which can really help you avoid hurt feelings and arguments and communicate more clearly.
A counselor will help you navigate the strange waters of making the lightening fast transition from teen to parent.
This is not an easy transition to make at any point, but as a teenager going from the world of teenage angst to mommy is especially challenging.
A good counselor, whether you stick with your school counselor or seek a family therapist specializing in teen pregnancy, will know how to support your growth, help you confront your feelings and provide resources in your community to help you.
First and foremost on this list would be a recommendation to a health care provider who specializes in the unique prenatal concerns of a teenage mother.
Making informed medical choices as far as your options as an expectant mother is much easier if your prenatal health care providers know what you, the teen mom, are up against.
As a teen mom your prenatal issues will not differ too much as far as the physical aspects of pregnancy go from other moms to be.
Pregnancy is pretty much pregnancy regardless of age.
In a teen pregnancy your body will undergo the same changes as other pregnant women and your baby will hit the same developmental milestones as gestation progresses.
This does not mean you don’t need special care.
All moms to be should get prenatal care as soon as possible.
If you are a teen, this could be trickier than it is for a more mature woman because it is highly likely that you have not seen a ‘lady doctor’ before.
Most compilations associated with teen pregnancy and childbirth are traced back to lack of prenatal care.
The reason teens don’t seek prenatal care is often due to fear, shame or just plain ignorance.
They may not realize they are pregnant and if they do they are too afraid about what their parents, boyfriend or others will say and they try to hide the pregnancy.
Pregnancy just isn’t something you can expect to hide. The baby pretty much announces itself sooner or later.
The only thing waiting to share the news and prolonging prenatal care will do is increase the chances of something going wrong for you or the baby.
Tell your parents as soon as you can.
Like pulling off a Band-Aid, it only gets worse the longer you take to do it, but in this case the stakes are much higher. So get prenatal care as soon as you can.
To pick a care provider that’s right for you, ask for recommendations.
Get some advice from your mom or another woman you trust to select an OB/GYN (OB/GYN is short for Obstetrician, a doctor who delivers babies, and a gynecologist, a doctor who specializes in female health problems). You can also select a midwife.
When selecting your OB/GYN or midwife remember a few things: this is your doctor, not your mom’s or aunts.
If you feel comfortable around the Doctor who just happens to see your mom as well that is great, but don’t base your choice of prenatal care provider on the single criterion of ‘this is my mom’s doctor’.
It might seem like a waste of time, but meet with several doctors and midwives for a consultation visit before you make your final choice.
You need to feel comfortable because this person will be taking you through a very intense, intimate and very transforming time in your life.
During the consultation visit ask several questions. One of the most important is to ask how often they work with teen moms.
Prenatal health care providers who routinely assist teen moms will know more about the special needs and concerns you will have that differ from other moms to be.
You need to trust this person and feel like you can share this time with them. They should make you feel confident, assured and most of all calm.
Your prenatal visits will start at about 10 weeks of pregnancy and continue at a once a month frequency until the third trimester when your care provider will want to see you twice a week.
Once you enter the last 6 weeks of your pregnancy you will be asked to come in once a week.
During these visits your doc will check on the health of the baby by listening to the baby’s heart beat and checking your urine, pulse and blood pressure.
You can also expect blood tests early in pregnancy. Later, you will have a glucose test, ultrasound and other precautionary prenatal screenings to ensure your health as well as your baby’s well being.
As a teen mom your body will undergo many changes during the course of your 9 month gestational period. But these changes are not so unique to you due to your age.
From a physiological standpoint your pregnancy will progress pretty much the same way as that of an older woman’s but there are a few concerns specific to teenage pregnancy.
You can expect to experience similar pregnancy symptoms as anyone else.
This includes swelling, tender breasts and abdomen, the vomiting and nausea of morning sickness, liena negra, darkening areolas and other skin changes, hunger, strange food cravings and weight gain.
To get a better idea of what changes are normal check out a few good books from the library or get online and Google pregnancy. Just be certain to read information from reputable sites.
You can also ask your mom, another trusted woman or your midwife.
There are a few issues, however, that are unique to being pregnant during those teen years.
As a teenager your body is still growing and developing. When you are growing a baby and growing yourself you will need to pay more attention to your nutritional intake.
Your doctor or midwife will be able to give you the exact nutritional guidelines that you will need to follow to be healthy during pregnancy.
Another issue teen moms often struggle against more than older more established mothers is the temptation to smoke or drink while pregnant.
Those teen years are filled with experimentation and exploration.
A more mature mom has already passed through those years when the thoughts and feelings of being accepted by your peer group seem so all encompassing that nothing else matters.
Smoking, drinking and experimentation with other drugs is often a result of a friendly offer from a friend.
Using these things while pregnant is especially dangerous. They can result in premature birth, low birth weight and brain damage for the baby.
This damage to the baby can be permanent and affect your baby for the rest of his or her life.
At the onset the idea of labor and deliver might seem so scary that you’d rather just stay pregnant.
This is not an option, however – and you can trust millions of mothers that have gone through this experience: by the end of 9 months you will not want to stay pregnant.
Labor for teen moms can be daunting but you can do this. You might be young, but your body is still built for having babies.
You are probably wondering what labor feels like. The answer to that question depends on the woman you are asking.
Some women breeze right through even very intense labor with smiles on their faces, proclaiming the natural experience worthwhile and not that bad.
Other women demand the epidural starting sometime during the 8th month of pregnancy. In the end you will have to make up your own mind after your own labor and delivery.
But to give you an idea, labor contractions are similar to severe menstrual cramps that come and go in a rhythmic pattern. Others compare contractions to a charley horse.
You can differentiate labor contractions from Braxton hicks or abdominal cramps because they come and go in a predictable pattern, start with a pulling sensation in your back and spread across the whole abdomen.
Teen moms usually do have smaller frames than women in their twenties or thirties.
This can mean longer pushing times or a C-section. But the rates of C-section are not too much higher among teen moms as compared to the rest of the expectant mother population.
The most important advice you can follow is to stay calm, and don’t listen to labor and birth horror stories that so many people will just seem to love to tell you.
You are perfectly capable of having a healthy labor and delivery of a beautiful baby and truly enjoy the experience.
You have told everyone who needs to know, you have met with your counselor and have made appointments with prenatal providers. Your choices are just beginning.
As you move along this path the advice will start pouring in from every direction: keep the baby, get married, don’t get married, abortion, adoption.
These are all choices that will be laid at your feet. You are the one who needs to make these choices.
You will live with the consequences, so the choices should not be taken lightly. To make informed decisions you will need to know what all the options are.
As you look over your options realize some sources will have an agenda of their own. It is best to avoid propaganda which dogmatically promotes or condemns one thing or another. Never underestimate yourself.
None of these choices are easy to make. You will know what is best for you, and your baby, even if it means personal sacrifice and difficulty.
While a many teen pregnancy ends up here, there are many consequences to choosing abortion.
Planned Parenthood regularly counsels teen mothers, but their methods have raised a few eyebrows.
To get all the information you should ask more than one source.
Getting an abortion is the start of a whole new set of consequences, not the ending of a scary situation. There are both physical consequences and emotional consequences of choosing an abortion.
Teens who have abortions often report feeling relief in the short term, but after a while they must deal with regret, guilt and anger.
The struggles of being a single mom are huge, but being a single teen mom is even more difficult.
As a single parent the buck for anything baby needs rests squarely and solely on your shoulders.
Children raised by single parents statistically have more challenges to overcome: higher prison rates, a greater likelihood of becoming teen mothers and struggles with substance abuse.
It can be done, and successfully so, but the realities of single parenthood and all the sacrifices that will need to be made by you and you alone as well as the possible effects on your baby need to be considered.
Teen marriage has an even lower success rate than the 50/50 divorce rate of most American Marriages.
You may never dream that the boy who is so dreamy, so noble, so standing by your side right now could ever become Mr. Wrong, but jumping right into marriage might not be the best idea.
To make a teenage marriage work you need to gain a perspective beyond your years.
Marriage only works when both parties have the right priorities. Kids and providing for the family come first: before friends, before parties, before everything else.
Don’t cross the matrimonial bridge unless you are both ready for this commitment. Listen to the counsel of your parents in this regard.
They have the benefit of years on their side, and while you may not like what they have to say you should hear them out.
Adoption is an option that few teens explore, but it needs to be on the table.
There are both pros and cons to adoption. Adoption provides your baby with a stable loving family home with both a mother and a father of your choosing.
You will need to deal with the emotional fall out, but many adoption agencies provide this counseling.
There are many adoption options that allow you to remain involved in your baby’s life, receiving updates, photos and communication from time to time.
Even if adoption is the last avenue you think you’ll seriously consider you should still check it out so you can make an informed choice.
The biggest detractor to adoption is the feelings of love you develop for your baby.
Choosing to place this child into someone else’s care, no matter how wonderful they seem or how much they want to have a baby is not easy to do.
Teens who choose adoption generally don’t regret their decision, even though they think about their child. These teens go on to a resumption of their teenage life.
It would be very misleading to imply that a teen pregnancy has no impact on your social life.
Once the word spreads, people will make assumptions, often forming incorrect or ignorant options about you.
It will be the most shocking and hurtful when even some of your close friends engage in gossip or change the way they view you.
Sometimes as horrible as the idea of home school or special schools for teen moms may sound, if the social backlash is too harsh these options become more attractive than ever.
There is a flip side to this coin, and that is the one where your friends stand by you. This is wonderful.
There are loyal friends who will accept you no matter what. The reality is however that your pregnancy will affect your relationship even with true friends.
As the time commitment to work, homework school and raising your child begin to take their toll you will inevitably find yourself drifting from even your closest friends.
Teens who are close share common interests and spend time together.
Before motherhood, it would sound ridiculous that you might choose to spend a weeknight in the company of a drooling albeit smiley baby instead of going out with your friends.
After you become a mom however this will be your reality.
Baby will steal your heart so completely that while you may miss your friends, and have a hard time feeling left out or lonely, you will truly want to do the best for baby and that means staying home playing peek-a-boo.
Babies need their moms and in this case that means you.
Moms make all sorts of sacrifices for their babies. The shift in your social agenda is only a small part of what you will do because you now wear the title of ‘mommy’.
Family And Teen Pregnancy
Mom and dad may have up to this point been the representation of all that screams total drag, but once your announcement hits the floor you will need to change this perspective a bit.
Mom and dad will be the best resources you have for emergency childcare, health insurance, a ride to anywhere or even a place to stay.
Parents will have loads of input and advice. Listen patiently and know they are only trying to help.
Some of what they have to say will be to your benefit, so cherry pick the best advice and respectfully decline the rest. There is no need to pick a fight.
As a parent yourself you will soon be doling out the same parental wisdom, but you will be walking a delicate line.
If you are living with your parents, or depending on them for integral support, you will need to respect their rules.
When conflicts arise communicate maturely, express thanks and hammer out a compromise.
Governmental Programs For Teen Pregnancy
Both federal, State and city governmental agencies offer a variety of programs to benefit teen moms and assist with teen pregnancy.
These teen pregnancy programs often include help with affordable health care for both pregnancy and well child visits.
There are also programs that help with the pursuit of educational goals, employment, child care and food.
Religious Outreach Supporting Teen Pregnancy
The guidance of a minister or other religious counselor can help you find your way as well as provide an inner peace with the choices you have made or have yet to make.
Members of a religious community can help you find childcare and join support groups as well as introduce you to other mothers.
This really is important because when raising a child the more sources you have for good advice the more likely you are to survive the terrible twos, sleepless nights, potty training and other child rearing challenges with confidence.
Most of your friends currently will not have this ability.
You will appreciate having friends who are also parents.
Religious programs can get you into the right place to develop these relationships in a non-judgmental venue.
You are a teenager, and at this point you are also a mom to be.
This does not make you a bad person.
But it does see you sitting at the table with a rather full plate.
Most moms don’t have to deal with PE, High School politics, pop quizzes and acne, while most teens don’t have to worry about who is watching the baby tonight, breast feeding and labor pains.
No matter what choice you make from this point, a positive pregnancy test is a rather defining moment in your life.
Get the help and support you need. Lean on family, friends and trusted mentors.
You can lead a happy, fulfilling and very rich life if you keep your head, stay committed and make the difficult choices ahead of you with all the information you can get.
You don’t have to regret this time in your life. You will come to view it as a stepping stone, a growing experience and even a blessing. Hang in there.
You can do this!
And feel free to print or come back to this summary of teen pregnancy anytime you need further guidance or advice.