Most of the times, when one hears or reads the term “teenage pregnancy”, they come up with their own set of assumptions and conclusions. It is safe to say that the majority of the population are misinformed and not equipped well enough to handle such situations in the society. Even though it isn’t the most prevalent issue faced by nations, there is a significant rise in the number of teen pregnancy each year. The two reasons are the offence of rape and statutory rape (a minor cannot consent to sex in India). This article is meant to help you understand things better when it comes to the causes and effects of teenage pregnancy and how it affects the mind and body of a young female.
Teenage pregnancy and abortion:
In most of the conservative societies, a minor, when pregnant, has no right to abort without the consent of her parents. More often than not, parents from villages and rural areas do not consent to abortion due to lack of knowledge and religious beliefs. There also is the issue of finding out about the pregnancy post 20 weeks post which abortion becomes illegal.
Implications of Teenage Pregnancy
Getting pregnant at an age when the body is still under major growth and development stages cause several risks and imbalances. These can be covered in three sections, which are risks to the mother, child, and socioeconomic risks.
Risks To A Teen Mother:
A pregnant teen doesn’t possess the maturity to handle a drastic change like pregnancy. Depression and anxiety are among the top mental illness that affects them during pregnancy and after delivery. The stress often results in miscarriages, birth complications and infants born with birth defects.
Young expecting mothers also don’t get prenatal care soon enough which gives them a lot of deficiencies such as anaemia.
Gestational hypertension or high blood pressure is another risk involved when girls don’t get proper medical attention. This can result in premature birth or low birth weight of the infant. When the blood pressure crosses a certain threshold, the risk of preeclampsia puts both the mother and child at a huge risk.
Risks To The Foetus:
When a pregnant teen doesn’t receive early and developmental prenatal care, she is more likely to have a low weight birth baby. The stress of being a teen mother also might push the girl to resort to substance abuse, which puts the foetus under further risks of underdevelopment, miscarriage, premature delivery or stillbirth.
When it comes to premature babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, they are susceptible to have developmental disorders such as:
- Cerebral palsy
- Down’s syndrome
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Mental Retardation
- Developmental Delay
- Underdeveloped organs
- Vision and auditory problems
Low birth weight babies and premature infants are also more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder. Their motor-sensory and social skills may be malformed or have delayed development. Sadly, these infants have a higher mortality risk than normal babies.
- The teen mother is not free of the societal and socioeconomic consequences due to pregnancy and childbirth.
- A large number of teen mothers usually drop out of school and never get a chance to complete their education.
- They are considered as social outcasts and are treated ill in conservative communities.
- Raising a child at such a young age needs the financial and emotional support of the parents which is difficult to come by. Several girls are abandoned by their families during such trying times.
- Children of teen parents are more likely to be raised in less than ideal conditions given the inexperience and lack of maturity.
- Getting a job to make ends meet is very difficult for a teen mother.
- Government healthcare facilities to look after teen mothers and their infants don’t reach remote areas and villages where it is most needed.
- Children of such young mothers are bound to have mental health issues that hinder them from normalcy.
- Such mothers often cannot afford to provide proper education to their children and suffer from poverty.
What Can Be Done To Improve The Scenario?
Apart from the need to change child marriage laws, schools should be encouraged to have honest and candid conversations with young, impressionable teens of all the sexes regarding safe sex, protection and consent. Awareness against sexual abuse and rape in the form of gender sensitization, inappropriate touches and establishing healthy boundaries must also be introduced.
When it comes to caring for pregnant teens, partnering with the right obstetrician is of utmost importance to ensure both the mother and child receive the medical attention needed. Pregnant teenagers should be made aware of the option to put up her child for adoption since she has her entire life ahead of herself. Mothers should be counselled post-delivery and be supported by the government and family to complete her education and build a healthy life.