I cannot possibly imagine the many millions of teenagers out there juggling responsibilities of being adolescent mothers, and studying or worse still trying to earn a living. It is both painful and pitiable because most of these young mothers do not find themselves in the labyrinth that is teenage pregnancy by their own volition, I mean they wish they had waited or had an informed decision not to get pregnant in the first place. While at it, may I remind you that motherhood, when it comes at the right time, like there is the right time, is one of the most joyful moments a woman can portend in her lifetime. Having a child before age 20 has so many disadvantages, both social and health related. I am here to tell you that there is no harm in waiting, but do you have the right information about this important aspect of your social reproductive health? Throughout this month, we would like to share with you pertinent information about how not to get pregnant before the right time and without your informed consent. Teenage pregnancy is pregnancy in a woman 19 years of age or younger. A woman can get pregnant if she has vaginal sex with a man at any age after she has begun having regular monthly periods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017, around 194,000 babies were born to American girls between the ages of 15 to 19. While the number of teenage pregnancies in the United States has been in decline, it still remains higher than in other industrialized countries.

Signs that you could be pregnant

You’ll probably first realize you’re pregnant when you skip a regular period. But if you get a very light period around the time you expect it, don’t assume you’re not pregnant. It’s possible to have very light bleeding in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Signs of pregnancy include:

  • Missed or very light period
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea, often in the morning
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Fainting
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling tired
  • Swelling abdomen

How to test pregnancy

Most supermarkets and drugstores sell home pregnancy tests. These tests are designed to detect pregnancy hormones in your urine. They’re most accurate if you use them more than a week after your missed period. If a home pregnancy test indicates you’re not pregnant, wait a week, and take another test to make sure.

If a home test shows you’re pregnant, you need to make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll confirm your pregnancy with a blood test and maybe a physical exam.

Risk factors for teenage pregnancy

How can society reduce the number of teen pregnancies? Most importantly, what can parents do to prevent their children from becoming teen parents? To begin, society and parents must be aware of the factors that increase the likelihood of teen pregnancies. These factors include;

  1. Family
  • Single parent households.
  • Single mothers’ dating behaviors.
  • Lack of positive family interaction.
  • Lack of parental supervision.
  • Lack of positive parent-child communication.
  • Mother was a teen parent.
  1. Peers
  • Sexual pressure from peers.
  • Belief that most peers are sexually active.
  • Having friends who are sexually active.
  • Dating begins at an early age.
  • Dating someone who is 3- 5 years older.
  1. Community/Culture
  • Lack of accurate sexual and reproductive health information.
  • High rates of divorce, violent crime, teen suicides, and high school dropouts.
  • Low community income.
  • Lack of community coordinated programs for youth. Policies that deal with school failure, dropout rates, job opportunities, social support, and positive educational and recreational activities.
  1. Individual
  • Early onset of puberty.
  • Siblings who are sexually active.
  • Lack of spiritual life.
  • Alcohol or drug use.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Limited education.
  • Lack of future-oriented goals.

By being aware of the factors that can influence teen pregnancies, parents, teens, and communities can work together to prevent and reduce teen pregnancies.

Effects of teenage pregnancies 

Though women are able to give birth as soon as they begin menstruating, there are some possible risks when you have a child early on in your teen years. These things are not guaranteed to happen, but it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about your reproductive health to know about any concerning signs or symptoms for your body.

Here are a few risks that are greater if you are pregnant before the age of 15 or you do not seek prenatal care:

  • Low birth weight/premature birth.
  • Anemia (low iron levels).
  • High blood pressure/pregnancy-induced hypertension, PIH (can lead to preeclampsia).
  • A higher rate of infant mortality (death).
  • Possible greater risk of cephalopelvic disproportion (the baby’s head is wider than the pelvic opening).

The effects of fathering a child as a teenager can be a frightening and life-changing event. Teen fathers don’t have to worry about the health implications of pregnancy and childbirth, but they could face similar difficulties staying in school and earning a living.

What are the options of pregnant teen mothers?

Teens that become pregnant may be afraid to see a doctor, but it’s extremely important for the safety of the mother and the unborn child.

Your doctor should discuss all options with you regarding your pregnancy, including:

  • Adoption–or giving birth and legally permitting someone else to raise your child.

  • Young Parenthood – giving birth and raising the child yourself.
  • Abortion – Termination of the pregnancy may be the first option that comes to mind, and it’s something every teenager should consider. Abortions are less risky than continuing with a full pregnancy, and they will not affect future fertility. The earlier in the pregnancy you make that decision, the safer it is.

  • Family Adoption –In some cases, a family member or friend will be willing to take temporary custody until the teen mother can finish school and earn gainful employment.

Can teenage pregnancies be prevented?

The only way to be sure you won’t get pregnant is to not have sexual intercourse. However, there are many methods to reduce your chances of becoming pregnant if you’re sexually active. There are many methods that you can discuss with your doctor and choose from to prevent you from becoming pregnant. I have highlighted just a few and your doctor will give you more insight. More so, ask your parents or peer counselors about them and will guide you through choosing one. Remember, I am not advocating for teenage sex before marriage, but it is critically important that you should know about these methods.

  • Intrauterine device (IUD)-An intrauterine device (IUD) is a device a doctor implants in your uterus. The procedure is well tolerated, and hospitalization isn’t required. 

  • Birth control implant-Several birth control methods affect hormone levels in your body, so you’re less likely to get pregnant. This is a very small plastic stick that’s inserted under the skin of your arm. Implants stay in place for up to three years. They have a 99 percent rate of effectiveness.

  • Birth control pills, shots, and patches also affect your hormone levels. They have an effectiveness rate of 91 to 94 percent.

  • Over the counter birth control methods- You can also buy OTC birth control at a drugstore and some supermarkets. These methods are not as effective as prescription birth control, but they do reduce your chance of getting pregnant. They include condoms, morning after-pill and birth control sponge. Visit your local drug store for more information on these OTC birth controls.

We can all help prevent teenage pregnancies by offering the right guidance and information to our teenage sexually active would be mothers and fathers. There are many methods available to help prevent pregnancy, including IUDs, birth control pills, and condoms. If you become a teen mother or father, there are available support systems that you can seek within your region or your city. Remember, relationships are your greatest strengths to win over this. All is not lost; you can still realign your priorities and deliver a healthy baby. Talk with your family and you will not be far away home from the necessary help you need. By and by, do not get pregnant if you are not ready to face the consequences that we have discussed in this article.

 Well, if you stay well and healthy, you will not need to worry.