Teenage pregnancy, otherwise known as adolescent pregnancy, is when a girl between 15-19 years becomes pregnant. Sometimes it can happen to a girl as young as ten years old. It is since a girl can be pregnant as soon as her first period begins.
In developed countries like America, the ratio of teenage pregnancy has greatly reduced over the past decades. However, adolescent pregnancy has been a great problem in developing countries.
According to WHO, the number of teenage girls who give birth annually is roughly 12 million in developing countries. Most of these pregnancies result in abortion or even the mother’s death.
Lack of education, poor financial conditions, lack of sources like contraceptives, and family pressure are some of the most common reasons for teenage pregnancy in these countries.
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Symptoms of Teenage Pregnancy
Usually, missing one or two periods is considered a major sign of pregnancy. However, for a teenage girl, this sign can be foxy. The reason is that periods during teenage are not regular. Moreover, depression, workouts, and dieting are also contributing factors.
Therefore, to rule out any confusion, it is also necessary to look out for some other signs. Other than a missed period, some other principal symptoms of teenage pregnancy are:
- Mood changes
- Aching breasts
- Morning sickness
- Sudden weight gain
- Bloated belly
A positive home pregnancy test is a clear-cut sign of pregnancy.
Risks Associated with Teenage Pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy is associated with various risks that can potentially harm both mother and her baby. Some of them are:
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Premature birth
- Effects on mother’s mental health
- Low birth weight baby
- High blood pressure
- Suicidal behavior
- Difficult labor
- Infant death
The mother and her child must face these adverse side effects of teenage pregnancy.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Adolescent pregnancy is often accidental and a result of unsafe sex. Sex without contraceptives is often linked with STDs. Especially in teens, there is a higher risk of these infectious diseases.
Therefore, STDs are one of the principal side effects of teenage pregnancy. This happens mostly in developing countries where either teenager does not have an approach to contraceptives or these are not available.
Additionally, due to the tradition of early marriages in some countries, contraceptives are prohibited. Hence, teens who have sex during pregnancy sometimes get STDs like HIV and chlamydia.
These infections can reach the baby through the placenta and cause several complications that may result in fetal death.
Teenage mothers are at higher risk of giving birth to a premature baby than mothers above 20. According to research conducted from 2003-05, the early birth rate was 14.5% in teenage mothers compared to 11.9% between women aged 20-29.
The reasons behind this preterm birth are different, including biological immaturity, lack of prenatal care, and poor nutrition.
Premature birth has many adverse effects on both mother and the baby. The mother ends up being physically and mentally disturbed while the baby is born with cognitive, respiratory, and vision problems.
Effects on Mother’s Mental Health
Postpartum depression is common among women of all age groups. However, it is higher in teenage mums.
Per a survey published in the journal Pediatrics in 2012, the risk of postpartum depression was twofold higher in teenage mothers compared to mature moms.
The cause behind this higher rate of postpartum depression in teenagers is often associated with the burden of motherhood at early ages. Furthermore, when a minor girl becomes a mother, most of the time, neither she has the time nor someone else to care for her mental health.
A teenage mother often becomes mentally disturbed, anxious, and nervous.
Preeclampsia is a health condition linked with pregnancy. It is characterized by high protein levels in urine, hypertension, and body swelling, especially in the hands and feet. It is also called toxemia.
While preeclampsia can affect any woman during pregnancy, it is approximately 1.25 times higher in teenage mothers.
Various factors are associated with preeclampsia during teenage pregnancy, including poor financial conditions, gynecological immaturity, and abnormal placentation.
Both the mother and the baby have to face the consequences of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia often leads to fetal growth restriction, a condition in which a baby’s growth is slow due to a poor supply of oxygen and blood.
On the other hand, a teenage mother with preeclampsia is at higher risk of kidney or liver failure, stroke, and seizures.
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Low Birth Weight Baby
Complications during teenage pregnancy like preeclampsia and preterm birth often result in low birth weight. A low birth weight baby weighs less than 2.5 kg.
A low birth weight baby has to face many problems, including difficulty breathing, difficulty in gaining weight, hypoxia, and a damaged nervous system.
Therefore, such babies need a ventilator to help them breathe normally. Especially when the mother is a teen, the mortality rate becomes high due to dramatically low weight.
Illiteracy is one of adolescent pregnancy’s most adverse side effects, especially in the developing world.
In developing countries, the marriage of teenage girls is common due to poor socioeconomic conditions and lack of awareness. These marriages often result in quitting school by the girls.
Even if someone continues to attend school after an early marriage, ultimately, she has to leave due to teenage pregnancy.
There are various reasons for illiteracy due to adolescent pregnancy like poor financial conditions, prenatal care, sarcastic remarks by fellows, and pressure from in-laws. Some girls cannot pursue their education because of the burden of parenthood and finding a job.
Whatever the reason may be, teenage pregnancy surely results in illiteracy.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the most common issues during pregnancy. Otherwise known as pregnancy-induced hypertension, it normally affects all age groups of women.
However, teenage mothers are more susceptible to hypertension than mature women. High blood pressure is often associated with other complications like preeclampsia.
Suppose hypertension is not taken care of beforehand. In that case, it can cause severe problems, including preterm delivery, cardiovascular issues, placental abnormalities, and growth limitation in the baby.
Some medications used to treat gestational hypertension may also affect the fetus’s growth and cause further complications.
According to a survey conducted in Brazil, suicidal thoughts are roughly 13.3% higher in pregnant teens.
The risk of attempting suicide is even higher during adolescent pregnancy resulting from an extramarital affair.
One of the major causes of suicidal behavior in teen mothers is postpartum depression. Other reasons include:
- The burden of motherhood.
- Fear of social stigma.
- Family pressure.
- Uncooperative or abusive partner.
- Chronic illness.
These problems result in extreme depression and lead to suicidal behavior in teens.
Complications resulting from adolescent pregnancy often cause difficulties during labor. The problems that may lead to difficult delivery include preeclampsia, infections, hypertension, stress, and puerperal endometritis.
According to research, a higher rate of maternal and fetal death is due to problematic birth in adolescent pregnancy. These complications end in a complicated delivery or even C-section. A teenage mother who goes through C-section has to face many consequences.
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The CDC or the Center for Disease Control reported that the infant mortality rate is higher in teenage pregnancies. That is why most infants born to teenagers are less likely to live healthy lives and even die within a year of delivery.
In most cases, the baby cannot hold up till the due date and dies within the mother’s womb. Even if the baby lives up to the delivery, there is a higher risk of morbidity or chronic illnesses.
The main reasons for these high mortality and morbidity rates include maternal problems, birth abnormalities, light birth weight, lack of prenatal care, pregnancy-induced depression, and preterm delivery.
When a teenage girl becomes pregnant, it is called teenage or adolescent pregnancy. The rates of adolescent pregnancy have greatly reduced in developed countries. However, in underdeveloped countries, it is a major problem.
Teenage pregnancy is linked with many complications. These problems are due to biological immaturity, lack of prenatal care, pregnancy-associated depression, and family rejection.
Some adolescent pregnancies even end up in maternal or infant death or birth of a baby with abnormalities.
Therefore, teenage mothers need great care as compared to mature mothers. Parents should talk to their pregnant daughters and guide them all along. The role of society in reducing the risk factors associated with adolescent pregnancies is also vital.
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