A teen pregnancy is technically a pregnancy experienced by a young woman or couple in the teenaged years, between 13 and 19 years of age. For statistical purposes there may be a division made between the pregnancies of under-16 year olds and under-19 years old, and sometimes pregnancies experienced by those as young as 11 year olds are considered teenage pregnancies.
 Why should I be aware of this?
The mother of the teen, pregnant teen mother, and the child born are likely to suffer health, social, emotional and economic problems. It is high time teenagers are educated on their sexual behaviour. Not only do the teenager suffer, but in most cases the parent of the teenager suffer also. Because most teens don't have a job the parents check has to go to the new baby.
 How does it affect me?
In certain countries it is natural for girls to get married and have children within their teen years. Where it is not, teenage pregnancy also exists, even when people don’t want it to exist. It is unwanted because it is the most difficult experience for a young woman to pass through. The consequences are terrifying: dropping out of school, abortion, likelihood of being drawn into criminal activity, rape, abuse, poverty, repeat pregnancies, negative impact on domestic life. The list can be endless.
In most parts of the world the social and religious sanctions associated with premarital sex is gone. Yet unfavorable consequences of unintended teenage pregnancy and teenage parenthood have continued to mount.
 Teenage pregnancy and health
Teenage births create health risks for the baby including the following:
- Low birth weight for the baby which leads to infant and childhood disorders and a high rate of infant mortality. Other problems associated with low-birth weight babies are more under-developed organs, bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, and intestinal problems.
- Normal teenage habits such as smoking, drinking, drugs and unhealthy eating habits during pregnancy can cause further health complications for the baby
- According to the American Medical Association, babies born to women who do not have regular prenatal care are 4 times more likely to die before the age of 1 year.
 Teenage pregnancy and society
With increasing “sexualization” of society and the loosening of traditional attitudes towards family, marriage and childbearing, young people now are socially pressured to be sexually active before they are prepared, both physically and psychologically, to deal with sexuality and its aftermath.
They are forced by societal norms to enter into relationships without developing the wisdom and maturity to take responsibility for their actions.
Middle school students enter puberty in the midst of increasing divorce rates, unabated sex and violence in the media and inundation of x-rated videos.
 All about teenage pregnancy
Also known as adolescent pregnancy, teenage pregnancy is one that occurs from puberty to the age of 19. Puberty is the stage of adolescence when a girl can sexually reproduce, however a young woman can become pregnant even before her first menstrual cycle. This is because ovulation, the release of an egg from the ovary, may occur before the first period. In the absence of adequate contraception the egg can become fertilized. And this is quite common in teenagers, as most of them do not use any birth control measures like condoms when they have sexual intercourse. A study conducted on 400 college students of Mumbai, India showed that most of the sexually active girls start worrying about contraceptives only after 6 months of sexual activity.
 Why higher pregnancies?
Main reasons for the high rate of teenage pregnancies in the US and UK are lack accurate knowledge about contraception and sexually transmitted infections. Where on one hand the media is full of sex, some parents and most public institutions are too embarrassed about dealing with young people's sexuality.
Countries which accept the sexual activity of young people have low rates of teenage sexuality. The US Government believes in abstinence and has the highest number of teenage pregnancies in the world with 31 percent of all teenage girls getting pregnant at least once before they reach age 20. The Scandinavian countries are reported to have the maximum sexual activity, but sex education from the age of 9 or 10 has helped keep teenage pregnancy under control.
 Global trends
Teenage pregnancy crosses all national, socio-economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds. However, there are some broad distinctions by regions.
 In developing countries
In many of the developing countries teenage pregnancy from early marriage is seen as a blessing and a proof that the young woman is fertile. In several cases, poverty contributes to this, when one does not have someone to take care of her at her early age.
For some young women, particularly from certain ethnic or social groups, teenage pregnancy can be a positive life choice. In least developed countries often poverty and deprivation, poor educational achievement and low expectations are key factors contributing to high rates of teenage pregnancy with far reaching changes in the lives of women.
 In developed countries
In the developed world teenage pregnancy is mostly outside marriage and is the result of increased adolescent sexual behavior. Such pregnancies carry a lot of social stigma.
In most developed countries teenage birth rates have declined over the last few decades, with Japan and Ireland being two exceptions. Japan had little scope for reduction as it had an extremely low teenage birth rate (4 out of 1000 women). Japan, along with countries such as South Korea, Italy and Spain, has more traditional approach to teenage pregnancy. Among the most liberal are Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
While sex outside marriage is uncommon in South Korea, in Italy and Spain conservative social values and the Catholic Church discourage sex. The United States and the United Kingdom, which have the highest birth rates, fall between the traditional and liberal countries. Instances of early marriages are gone from these countries. Moreover, these societies don’t have in place systems to encourage responsible sexual behavior— in terms of providing adequate sex education or affordable contraceptive or sexual health services.
 Complications of teenage pregnancy
Teenage women generally encounter more problems during pregnancy and childbirth than older women. Reasons for the higher complication rate include:
- Physical immaturity
- Lack of health care knowledge
- Cigarette smoking
- Alcohol consumption and the use of other social drugs
- Poor diet
- Inadequate antenatal care
- High levels of emotional distress.
A pregnant teenager may even need the help of a psychiatrist to give proper advice for different emotional complications
Health, Social and Emotional Problems
Health, social and emotional problems are common among teenage mothers. Premature labor and socioeconomic consequences are also the possible complications that arise because of pregnancy. Both the baby and mother will be at risk in major areas of life like school failure and physical or mental illness.
Social stigma with being a single parent has disappeared to a great extent. And with welfare made available in some developed countries, parenting may be a viable option too. But for teenage parents there may still be some unforeseen consequences, such as:
- Education opportunities for children get curtailed, and along with it chances of employment
- This may ultimately lead to poverty
- May find themselves alienated from family and friends
- Run the risk to mental disturbances
- Possibilities of child abuse and neglect
- As parents are inexperienced in life, the child may lack proper care and guidance
In addition to increased health risks, children born to teenage mothers are more likely to experience social, emotional, and other problems:
- Lack of proper nutrition and healthcare may lead to children with underdeveloped intellect and lower academic achievement.
- Children born to teenage mothers are at greater risk of abuse and neglect.
- Boys born to teenage mothers are 13% more likely to be jailed
- Girls born to teenage mothers are 22% more likely to become teenage mothers.
 What can I do?
Teen decisions to be sexually active are linked to family values, peers, and other influences such as media. However, once that decision has been made, the leading causes of teen pregnancy are lack of knowledge and lack of availability of contraceptives. Here parental advice and open discussions are helpful. Abstinence may be promoted. Moral values may be preached. But the decision to be sexually active ultimately rests with the teens.
- Educational interventions
Communication and education remains the most effective ways of preventing teenage pregnancy. Even if knowledge of contraception is available, most teenagers lack critical thinking and decision making abilities to foresee the far-reaching consequences of their action.
- Counseling services
Teenagers are not only unaware about the methods of birth control but are without any clue about how to tackle pressure from peer groups who may be pressurizing them into having sex before they are ready. Schools, instead of teaching abstinence, can discuss available birth control measures, how to handle peer pressure and how these are to be used to avoid unwanted pregnancy.
- Contraceptive access
In many cases teens may be semi-educated about contraceptive use. But when they are not easily available, unnecessary risks are taken.
 Parental guidance
Now the average age for one’s first sexual relations is 15. This is three to four years earlier than the preceding generation. Consequently, at such a tender age they are unlikely to be properly equipped – cognitively, emotionally, or socially – to deal with the risks associated with sexuality.
It has been noticed that teenagers who have strong emotional attachments to their parents are much less likely to become sexually active at an early age and less likely to have teen pregnancy.
Here are some tips on how to discuss sex with your child:
- Make talking about sex a part of everyday life, not just a one-off talk and keep the conversation going as they get older
- Starting to talk to your child about sex is easier when he is young – before he reaches puberty
- Don’t make it a one-off talk. Instead make it an on-going process, even when he grows up
- Boost your child’s decision-making abilities. Let him make choices and take decisions. Let him learn by errors
- Take advantage of the media. See and refer to what is being shown on TV – soaps, advertisements etc. This will make the discussion objective
- Take help from books and the Internet to get ideas about how and what to discuss
- There may be times when your child may not want to talk. Leave him alone in such times
- Find out other parents’ ways of tackling similar problems
 Inculcate invaluable life skills
- All government-aided or non-government programs notwithstanding, it is very important to inculcate certain invaluable life skills in our children, give them an environment where they can blossom. Growing up in such environment will build in them self-image and great self esteem to confidently face the challenges of life.
- If any program to reduce teenage pregnancy is to be successful, the views and experiences of the young people must be taken account. All teen-agers, in their drive to establish an individual identity for themselves, may not respond to moral sermons. The traditional moral attitudes toward sex are known to most of them. What is more important is to address the problems that they do not understand. The true nature of their sexuality and how to give direction to that.
 90 degrees
In modern times, with safe abortion and increased access to hormonal contraceptives, it is highly feasible for women to avoid pregnancy during their teenage years. Contraceptives have given women the ability to separate sexual desires from reproduction. In many developed countries, childbearing outside of marriage is not stigmatized to the same extent as it was several decades ago. Even AIDS prevention campaigns don’t emphasize on moral values of abstinence but stress “safe sex” and careful choice of partners. But current statistics reveal that approximately 10% of girls of age 19 and under do get pregnant. Why teenage pregnancy continues and along with it the social stigma attached to it?
Sexual behavior cannot be seen in isolation from social factors. Women’s struggle for political freedom and social equality led to the sexual revolution of the early 1900s, ushering in more liberal views on sexuality. Today’s problem of increased teen-age sexuality is also social and not moral. Sex became a “right” for the earlier generation, and this gave the generations that followed the right to emulate them.
For a woman including a teenager to conceive it is not necessary that actual penetration takes place. This is because sperm can travel upwards from its presence in the area of the external genital area and result in pregnancy. It is therefore very important for teenagers to have proper knowledge and understanding of their body and its functions before they become sexually active. Responsible sexual behaviour prevents pregnancy.
 Myths about Pregnancy and Contraception
The prevalence of these myths supports ignorance about the risks of pregnancy. Here are some of them:
- A woman cannot become pregnant the first time she has sex.
- A girl cannot become pregnant if she has not yet had her first menstrual period.
- It is impossible to become pregnant during one’s period.
- There is no risk of pregnancy if the man withdraws before ejaculating.
- A woman cannot become pregnant if she does not have an orgasm.
- Having sex standing up or with the woman on top prevents pregnancy.
- Overview, Health Risks to the Baby
- Better Health Channel
- Teenage pregnancy: statistics
- Teen Pregnancy Statistics and Teen Pregnancy Facts
- Difference and Disparity in Adolescent Pregnancy in Developed Countries
- Teen-age Sexuality and Public Morality
- Talking to your child about sex and teenage pregnancy
 Additional Information
- Risk of Teenage Pregnancy