Teenage Pregnancies and Health Risks
Western Governors University
Teen girls should refrain from the peer pressure of becoming pregnant. Becoming pregnant at a young age may have consequences with the range of seriousness. Pregnant teens are encouraging others to become pregnant in the form of peer pressure. Teens are watching too much television that encourages them to become pregnant. Pregnancy is a major reason that the dropout rate of teen girls is so high. Teens need to be informed of the health risks that they may be faced with if they become pregnant. Research suggests that there are no easy solutions to the complexity of issues affecting pregnant teens, such as outside influences in the form of other pregnant teens and media that encourage pregnancy, the effect of pregnancy on a teenager's education, and the health risks faced by pregnant teens and their unborn children.
Television shows are one example of media that complicates the issue of teen pregnancy. Studies show that teens, 12-17 years of age, that watch television shows that have the most sexually suggestive information, are twice as likely to become pregnant (Chandra, 2008). The television industry needs to have more of a balance between sexual content and the risks that pregnancies have upon teens (Chandra, 2008). These television shows also influence others to become pregnant because it is the thing to do. For example, MTV program content implies that if a girl gets pregnant, then the teen has a one-way ticket to fame and MTV is also promoting teen pregnancy instead of stating it as a serious problem in America (Montalvan, 2011).
Television increases the complexity of this issue when watching television shows that make teen pregnancies appealing leads to peer pressure to become pregnant. For example: Girls 16 and younger have gotten together to "plan" their pregnancies and how they are going to raise their children together. When the girls would find out if their pregnancy test came back positive, they would high five each other, like they were proud to be pregnant at such a young age and they will be ok (Males, 2008). Peer pressure is usually male-to-male and female-to-female, this pressure seems to be harder to withstand from males due to status and being accepted. On the other hand, females fall into peer pressure to "fill a void" in their lives and maintain a relationship with the opposite sex (Sugland, 1997). Not only is peer pressure a problem, research shows that 20% of teens have stated that their parents (46%) are also a big influence on them having sex compared to the 20% of friends pressure (Albert, 2010). What is this saying about parents' influence on their own teens? Teens state that they wish they could have more open conversations about sex with their parents and be more open in conversation about contraception. They believe that this could reduce teen pregnancies (Albert, 2010).
There are also various cultural practices that complicate how teens think about pregnancy. In adolescents' views about sex, it is on their minds most of the time whether or not they are sexually active themselves. Views differ from race to race as to the frequency of sex among their peer groups, for instance African-American perceive more sex than among peer groups in the European-and Mexican-American peer groups. (Mahavarkar, Madhi, & Mule, 2008). Teen pregnancy is not only a local problem, but is a global concern even with the conflicting information from study to study. The previous new labor government in England identifies pregnant schoolgirls as a particularly vulnerable group.
In addition, research shows different effects of pregnancy on the education of pregnant teens. The leading cause, 30%, of teens dropping out of high school is pregnancy and parenthood (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2010, March). In England, the 1st cornerstone of a four cornerstone campaign is to increase the participation of pregnant teens in education, training and/or employment. According to the Social Exclusion Unit, the second strategy is getting 60% of young mothers into training, employment, and education (as cited in Vincent & Thomson, 2010). The Social Exclusion Unit assumes that meeting the second cornerstone will help reduce the negative health, social and economic correlates of teen pregnancies. Researchers appear to agree with policy-makers on the challenges that the pregnant teens and mothering teens face in their education. The Department of Education and Skills put out a guidance on the education of school-aged girls and parenting mothers which outlined the expectations that the teens should be getting. England's local authorities have a low priority in helping teen mothers get back into education. (Audit Commission, 1999, Coleman and Dennison 1998). In the 2001 guidance, the Department of Education and Skills state, “The school should ensure that the young woman continues learning as long as possible up until the birth by exploring all opportunities for curriculum support available (Department of Education and Skills, 2001, 5). Schools are also required to provide an elective official to be in charge for the pregnant teenagers--someone whose main function is to facilitate the on-going education of the pregnant pupil and her successful reintegration to education after the six-week post-natal check-up. This official should be made aware of all the schoolgirl pregnancies within the local authority. The local authorities are encouraged to provide the same education as those of pregnant teens. Pregnancy should not be the reason some of these parenting mothers are not being allowed to attend school. Schools should be partially accountable for the education of these parenting teens. In order to make this goal happen, schools would need to provide work for the pregnant teen to do at home when she is unable to attend school. About half of the teens that are pregnant have a high school diploma vs. 89% of those that were not teen mothers. "Other data find that less than 2% of young teen mothers (those who have a baby before age 18) attain a college degree by age 30" (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, March 2010).
Pregnancy can have negative effects on education. According to Ashley, study 1 of 4, was an average student that found out at 6 weeks she was expecting. She thought, "I'm not going to get my GCSE's [General Certificate of Secondary Education], I'm not going to go to college and I'm not going to get the job I want to get" (as cited in Vincent, & Thompson, 2010). Ashley was hoping to be able to say goodbye to her friends. The school implied that she would be able to maintain her education with a pupil referral unit; therefore, the school was expressing its concerns of the health and safety of her pregnancy. Poor communication of the students mainstream school with the pupil referral unit made Ashley miss coursework and failed some of her GCSE's that she was optimistic in passing. The school just did not care.
In some cases pregnancy has mixed effects on a students education but still presents complications. Shae, study 2 of 4, had mixed reactions, peers were mostly accepting, but among staff they are mixed, some accepting, others not so much. The meeting was a different situation from Ashley's. Shae was able to stay in her school until most of her GCSE's were complete with minimal accommodations, such as leaving class a little early to avoid being "crushed" in the hallways. Her teacher also took on making sure the Pupil Referral Unit had coursework for her to do, unlike to first study. Shae felt more apart of her school still (as cited in Vincent, & Thompson, 2010).
Pregnant teens will need to make complicated decisions on education. Shae was able to stay in the mainstream school until her 7th month of pregnancy, but at the same time still felt like she was apart of the school. Unlike Ashley's school, Shae's was more supportive of her situation. Children of teen mothers are affected in the long term, such as, becoming a teen parent later (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2010). Pregnant teens will have a much harder time finding well paying jobs if they are not able to have the proper education available to them... Without a high school education, it is much harder to be accepted into college (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2010). Shae was aware that she had a choice and made that known to the school and staff members and stuck to convincing them to allow her to stay and accomplish her dreams and goals that she had set for herself. Title IX actually protects pregnant teens to have an equal education to those of their peers, no matter the situation. (Educational Policy, January and March 2006, 20(1). Shae was aware of the choice that she had on her education and made it known to the school and the staff members and stuck to convincing them to allow her to stay. As stated above the Title IX, is an American statue, that should also prepare pregnant teens the same opportunity as those in other countries.
For example, a non-educational consequence of teen pregnancy is the health risks to the mother and the baby. Prenatal care is critical in the first months of pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins with folic acid are suggested to be taken before becoming pregnant to prevent certain birth defects, such as neural tube defects (as cited in Nihira, M., 2009. Teen Pregnancy: Medical Risks and Realities). Some of the health risks for both the pregnant teen and unborn child are as follows:
Teens have more complictions in delivery than those in their 20's and later. Pre-Term deliveries for the unborn child are a major complication. The teen is 3 times more likely to develop anemia, than those that are not teens. Pre-term deliveries are higher in some studies while other studies do not have the higher rates. Poor prenatal care and late identification of complications could explain the high rate of pre-term delivery. (Mahavarkar, Madhu, & Mule, 2008). Any baby born before 37 weeks is considered pre-term or "preemie." Full term lasts 40 weeks. The baby can have respiratory, digestive, vision, cognitive, and many more problems (as cited in Nihira, M., 2009. Teen Pregnancy: Medical Risks and Realities).
Pregnant teens are still growing themselves which puts their unborn child at a greater risk of being a "premee" and being under weight. Pregnant teens are 1.8 times more likely to have low birth weight babies. Research shows that in a controlled and study low birth weights are as follows: 2.5 (42% study, 59% controlled). (Mahavarkar, Madhu, & Mule, 2008). Babies that are less than 3.3 lbs. may have to be put on a ventilator to help them breath after birth due to their lungs not being fully developed. Premature babies usually have not had enough time in the womb to develop fully (as cited in Nihira, M., 2009. Teen Pregnancy: Medical Risks & Realities).
Complications for the pregnant teen may be very severe. Pre-eclampsia is a severe condition for the mother such as bleeding problems, pre-mature separation of the placenta from the uterus before the baby is born (placenta abruption), rupture of the liver, stroke, and death (rarely). (Mahavarkar, Madhu, & Mule, 2008). For example, pre-eclampsia, can cause swelling in the hands and feet of the mother along with organ damage (as cited in Nihira, M., M.D., (2009). Teen Pregnancy: Medical Risks & Realities).
Research suggests that there are no easy solutions to the complexity of issues affecting pregnant teens, such as outside influences in the form of other pregnant teens and media that encourage pregnancy, the effect of pregnancy on a teenager's education, and the health risks faced by pregnant teens and their unborn children.
In conclusion, outside influences account for some of the reasons that teens are becoming pregnant in high school. If teens are not sexually active in high school, teen peers torment them and encourage them to become pregnant. In return, the pregnant teens and teen mothers suffer the natural consequences of becoming pregnant. One result is not having an equal education to their peers and not having the better paying jobs that the other teens may have. Teens that become pregnant while still young and their unborn child face huge health issues, such as low birth weight, pre-eclampsia, possible stroke, and possible death.
Albert, B. (2010). With one Voice 2010: America’s Adults and Teens sound off about Teen Pregnancy. Washington, D.C.: The NCPTP and Unplanned Pregnancy. Audit Commission, (1999)
Chandra, A. (2008). Study: TV influences teen pregnancy stats. Retrieved from Coleman & Dennison, (1998)
Department of Education and Skills, (2001), 5.
Educational Policy, (January and March 2006) 20,(1).
Mahavarkar, S. H., Madhu, C. K., & Mule, V. D. (2008). A comparative study of teenage pregnancy. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 28(6), 604-607. doi:10.1080/01443610802281831.
Males, M. (2008). http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jul/13/opinion/op-males13. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (March 2010). Why It Matters: Teen Pregnancy and Education.
Nihira, M., M.D., (2009). Teen Pregnancy: Medical Risks & Realities. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/baby/teen-pregnancy-medical-risks-and-realities.
Social Exclusion Unit, (1999).
Sugland, B. (n.d). Sex, Pregnancy and Contraception: A Report of Focus Group Discussions with Adolescents. N/A, Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
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