A bit of good news indeed!!
In 2010, there were 34.3 births for every 1,000 teens. Representing a 9% drop from 2009, this is lowest rate in the nearly 7 decades records have been kept. Teen birth rates have been declining for the last 3 years.
Data used in the study of teen births was compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC examined nearly all birth certificates from 2010.
While the study did not examine why teen birth rates are at a historic low, many experts credit better sex education in schools for the drop.
Whatever the reason, it’s encouraging to see teen pregnancy on the decline.
The emotional impacts of pregnancy in the teen years are certainly well understood. Parenthood is something not to be taken lightly and being pregnant at 15 years of age is a frightening situation to be in. Does the teen mother know what to do to ensure her baby is healthy? Is she ready for the rigors of motherhood?
Besides these emotional risks, there are certain medical impacts of teen pregnancy.
First of course is potential lack of good prenatal care, especially in the critical early stages. If a teen mother feels alone and isolated due to a lack of support from an adult, they will be more likely to not eat right and not go to their prenatal appointments.
High blood pressure – or pregnancy-induced hypertension – is another health effect. Teen mothers are in fact more likely to experience this effect than mothers in their 20s or 30s. High blood pressure combined with excessive protein in the urine is another common, yet dangerous condition known as preeclampsia.
Pre-mature birth and low birth weights are also higher in teenage pregnancies. Birth before 37 weeks (…standard pregnancy term is 40 weeks) is considered premature. The earlier the infant is born, the greater the risk of respiratory, digestive or cognitive problems. A newborn weight of 3.3-5.5 pounds is considered low.
Sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia and HIV are also of special concern to teen mothers. Some STDs in fact do not only affect the mother, but can travel into the uterus and affect the child as well.
Postpartum depression is also higher among teen mothers according to the CDC, which can certainly interfere with taking care of the baby. Girls who are feeling sad after the birth should discuss this with their doctor or midwife.
Even though the risks are greater, there are things teen mothers can do to mitigate the emotional and health effects of being pregnant .
Don’t drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs…get early prenatal care and consider a folic acid vitamin supplement to prevent birth defects. And just as important, seek out emotional support through a parent, trusted adult and midwife. Many of the effects of pregnancy during the teen years can be mitigated by simply having someone there to help guide the way.
Ideally, teen pregnancy shouldn’t happen but it sometimes does. It’s good to see birth rates are at their lowest levels probably ever. Strong families and good education about the realities of sex and parenthood are invaluable tools for ensuring pregnancy occurs when it’s the right time.