Pregnancy can be one of the most difficult experiences a teenager faces. Understand how to help your teen address the challenges ahead.
Teenage pregnancy can be a crisis for your teen and your family. Common reactions might include anger, guilt and denial. Your teen might also experience anxiety, fear, shock and depression. Ask what your teen is feeling and talk about what's ahead. Your teen needs your love, guidance and support now more than ever.
Discuss the options
A pregnant teen has a variety of options to consider:
- Keep the baby. Many pregnant teens keep their babies. Some choose to marry their partners and raise the baby together. Others rely on family support to raise the baby. Although completing school and getting a good job can be challenging, it can be accomplished with hard work and help. If your teen plans to keep the baby, discuss the challenges and responsibilities involved.
- Give the baby up for adoption. Some pregnant teens give their babies up for adoption. If your teen is considering adoption, explore the different types available. Also, discuss the emotional impact on everyone involved.
- End the pregnancy. Some pregnant teens choose to end their pregnancies. If your teen is considering an elective abortion, discuss the risks and emotional impact. Be aware that some states require parental notification for an elective abortion.
In addition to talking to you, encourage your teen to discuss the options with your teen's partner, health care provider or a specialist in pregnancy counseling. Talking to a psychologist or social worker also might be helpful.
Promote proper prenatal care
Teens during pregnancy appear to be at increased risk of high blood pressure, anemia, premature birth, having low birth weight babies and experiencing postpartum depression. Encourage your teen to:
- Seek prenatal care. During pregnancy, regular prenatal visits can help your teen's health care provider monitor your teen's health and the baby's health. Teens might need specialized prenatal care.
- Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If your teen has an STI, treatment is essential.
- Eat a healthy diet. During pregnancy, your teen will need more folic acid, calcium, iron and other essential nutrients. A daily prenatal vitamin can help fill any gaps.
- Stay physically active. Regular physical activity can help ease discomfort and boost your teen's energy level. Encourage your teen to get a health care provider's OK before starting or continuing an exercise program, especially if your teen has an underlying medical condition.
- Gain weight wisely. Gaining the right amount of weight can support the baby's health — and make it easier for your teen to lose weight after delivery.
- Avoid risky substances. Alcohol, tobacco and any illegal drugs are off-limits during pregnancy. Even use of supplements and prescription and over-the-counter medications deserve caution.
- Take childbirth classes. These classes can help prepare your teen for pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding and being a parent.
If your teen lacks the money or transportation to obtain prenatal care — or needs help finishing school — a counselor or social worker might be able to help.
Prepare for the future
Teenage pregnancy often has a negative impact on a teen's future. Teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and to attend college, are more likely to live in poverty, and are at risk of domestic violence.
Children of teen parents also are more likely to have health and learning impairment conditions and are more likely to be neglected or abused. Girls born to teen parents are more likely to experience teenage pregnancy themselves.
If your teen decides to continue the pregnancy, address these challenges head-on. Discuss goals and how your teen might go about achieving them as a parent. Look for programs to help pregnant teens remain in school or complete coursework from home. Encourage your teen to take parenting classes and help your teen prepare to financially support and raise a child.
Remember, your love and support can help your teen deal with pregnancy and the challenges ahead.