Becoming a mother is by far one of the biggest changes and challenges a woman will experience in her life. While it’s a huge adjustment for someone in her 20s, 30s or 40s, there are additional consequences of teenage pregnancy and motherhood that every parent and child should consider.
My own mother was 18 years old when she gave birth to me. Adding a baby to her life when her priorities should have been pursuing a college education and maturing into an adult, forced her to make decisions that took her life and mine in some unexpected and undesirable directions.
While the teen birth rate has declined in recent years, teenage pregnancy rates still remain high and approximately one million teenage girls become pregnant each year in the US.
There are some major consequences of teenage pregnancy. Here are five that will shape the rest of a woman’s life.
1. Impact on Health
Teenage mothers and babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to suffer health, social and emotional problems
Prenatal care is critical, yet teenage girls who are pregnant—especially if they don’t have support from their parents—are at risk for not receiving adequate care during pregnancy. According to WebMD, this care includes screening for medical problems in both mother and baby, monitoring the baby’s growth, and ensuring that young mothers take prenatal vitamins with folic acid, which are essential in helping to prevent certain birth defects.
Pregnant teens have a higher risk of getting high blood pressure, also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension, than pregnant women in their 20s or 30s. They also have a higher risk of preeclampsia, which is a dangerous medical condition that combines high blood pressure with excess protein in the urine, swelling of a mother’s hands and face, and organ damage. These medical risks may require pregnant teens to take medications to control the symptoms and can also disrupt the unborn baby’s growth. These medical risks can lead to further pregnancy complications such as premature birth.
Furthermore, according to the Centers for Disease Control, teen mothers have a higher risk of developing
To further complicate things, teens who have experienced pregnancy are at risk for repeat pregnancies. Nearly one in five births to mothers ages 15-19 are repeat births.
Although most teen parents who are sexually active use contraception during the postpartum period, only about 22 percent use “most effective” birth control (> 99 percent effective). Babies born as a result of a repeat teen pregnancy are even more likely to be born prematurely and at low birth weights.
2. Impact on Education
Teenage pregnancy certainly disrupts a young woman’s education. In fact, the majority of teen mothers drop out of high school with only about one-third of them obtaining a high school diploma. Fewer than 2% of teen mothers finish college before age 30.
3. Lower Wages
This lack of education limits teen mothers in their ability to provide for themselves and their children. In fact, 80% of teen mothers must rely on welfare at some point.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Teenage mothers are also more likely to live in poverty and depend on public assistance. Children born to teen parents are more likely to have lower school achievement, enter the child welfare and correctional systems, drop out of high school and become teen parents themselves, compared to children born to older parents.”
4. Major Decisions
While some teen mothers get support from their parents, for some they decide the best decision is to terminate an unexpected pregnancy. For others, the right choice means giving up their babies for adoption while others may feel obligated to marry their babies’ fathers.
While some of these early marriages work out in the long term, many times the stress at such a young age is too much to bear on these teens. They simply don’t have the life experience to manage everything they’re facing. This can make a lasting and successful marriage nearly impossible.
The decision to marry based solely on the need to care for an unplanned child is not likely a promising one.