Teen pregnancy can lead to very damaging and risky situations.
Bringing a life into the world is for many people one of the most beautiful experiences of their life. Now, this is so for those who have wanted to have a child and are ready for it, people who have matured and planned the conception of a son or daughter.
Other people find themselves in a situation where they become pregnant by accident, or that although they want to have children in the future, they are not yet ready for it. This is the case of teenage pregnancies, which can have great repercussions for the person who remains pregnant. It is about this state that we are going to talk throughout this article.
We consider that a pregnancy is an adolescent when it occurs between 10 and 19 years of chronological age, regardless of the level of physical development of the adolescent in question. This vital stage is by itself a time of great changes at all levels: the body grows and changes from child to adult, our mind and cognitive abilities develop more and more. However, the emotional realm and mental maturity usually take much longer to develop.
The adolescent is in a process of searching for identity, of knowing who he is and what is his role in the world. Little by little you will face new demands and social experiences. Among them we find the first loves and relationships, and frequently also the first sexual relationships. In fact, it is known that a high proportion of citizens began sex before the age of fifteen.
However, in some cases these first experiences are highly impulsive and do not lead to experimentation that takes into account the risks of their actions, something that with regard to sex can lead to an early pregnancy. This occurs all over the world, although it is more visible in developing countries or those with a low educational level.
Pregnancy is the biological process through which an egg fertilized by a sperm develops and grows in the mother’s womb for approximately nine months until delivery. This process triggers a series of physical, organic and even psychic and behavioral changes in the mother, aimed at promoting said growth and the subsequent arrival in the world of the new creature.
It is also a risky process, since it implies a strong investment of resources by the maternal organism, and in a body still in formation this can have serious risks. Likewise, even if having a child is carried out successfully also implies a high level of responsibility and capacity, of a level such that an adolescent could hardly support it without any help.
Why at such a young age? Risk factor’s
The young adolescent has a functional reproductive system capable of entering into a state of pregnancy, something that means that if there is any type of sexual relationship at this age there is a risk of becoming pregnant.
Although some adolescents become pregnant in a conscious and planned way, most of the pregnancies in adolescence occur in the context of an involuntary incident, either because they have not used any type of protection or because it has been used ineffectively or has broken / failed. Thus, in most cases we are facing an unwanted pregnancy.
In this sense, although finding a single cause of why they occur is not feasible (since it is a multicausal phenomenon), it is necessary to take into account that there are multiple risk factors that can influence when a pregnancy occurs in the adolescence.
The first one is the age of onset of the first sexual relations. In this sense, it has been observed that adolescents with a sexual initiation at twelve or thirteen have a probability that can exceed 90% of becoming pregnant during adolescence.
Another risk factor closely linked to the previous one is the presence of non-existent or poorly integrated sexual education, in which sex is a taboo about which nothing is known or the risks and possible consequences are unknown. Likewise, it is also usually a risk factor not knowing the existence or how to use prophylactic methods, the low availability or high price of these or the underestimation of their importance.
Other common risk factors are educational and economic level, in which it has been observed that there is a greater tendency to teenage pregnancies in populations with fewer resources and access to education.
In addition, the consumption of alcohol and / or other psychoactive substances favors maintaining unprotected relationships. Social exclusion, the lack of vital goals or hopes of improving one’s situation or the suffering of some disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder also facilitate.
Another element to take into account is that exposure to a parental model in which children have been had as an adolescent also makes it easier to replicate said model, as well as cultural or religious beliefs in which the role of women is to give birth since youth. Also the absence of support from the family, that this is dysfunctional, that there is negligence, abandonment or lack of affection are risk factors. The same happens if the woman is immersed in a context in which violence or contradiction abounds when it comes to sex.
Finally, it should be taken into account that some adolescents become pregnant after having suffered some type of sexual abuse or rape. In addition, in some cases people who have suffered them in childhood may have normalized sexual contact at a young age, in these cases having a higher risk of teenage pregnancy. Likewise, child marriages also tend to involve this type of pregnancies.
Biological consequences and complications of pregnancy at this stage
Regardless of how the pregnancy occurred, when it occurs in adolescence, the pregnant young woman is faced with a situation considered high risk for both the baby and her, since although her body is biologically capable of conceiving, it is not yet have completed their physical development.
Among the different risks existing at the biological level we can find the possibility of suffering from anemia that can complicate the health of the mother and the fetus, the appearance of spontaneous abortions (whose probability is much higher than in an adult) or premature births or infections .
Likewise, and although it may vary depending on the sanitary measures available in the locality in which one lives, a pregnancy before the age of fifteen doubles the risk of dying during childbirth in relation to adult women (in fact, it is a of the most common causes of death of adolescents). Postpartum bleeding and hemorrhage are more likely.
It is also common for them to suffer from high blood pressure, as well as a higher probability of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. In addition, the mother’s own growth can be stopped or slowed in such a way that short stature and obesity can appear.
Babies born to adolescents have a higher risk of being born underweight and prematurely, and it has been observed that compared to those born to fully formed adults, these babies have a higher proportion of intellectual disabilities, malformations, developmental problems or neural tube defects, in addition to a greater probability of dying before the first year due to sudden death. It is also more common for them to have minor infections.
Psychic and social repercussions
In addition to this, becoming pregnant during adolescence also has great psychological and social repercussions. To begin with, a teenage pregnancy is usually met with a reaction from family, friends and social environment in general can become very aversive for the young woman. She may feel or even be really rejected by her close environment and pressured to make a decision.
They are also in a situation where it is more likely that academic problems and school failure appear, and it is more difficult for them to access higher education or get jobs that require it. Their employment is usually more precarious and they tend to have worse economic and social conditions.
Likewise, a decision must be made as to whether to continue the pregnancy or carry it out, both options having repercussions on the adolescent’s psyche and a social effect on her environment. In many cases, adolescents do not feel qualified to be mothers, and rejection of the baby may occur once it is born.
There is also a greater risk of falling into drug use and antisocial acts, as well as suffering from depression, anxiety, uncertainty and problems with self-esteem and social adjustment.
In addition to this, the adolescent pregnant with another may find herself with serious relationship problems or even be abandoned, since it has been shown that adolescents tend to see said pregnancy as a limitation to their future. In general, according to several studies, a majority of adolescents in this situation tend to have the option of aborting.
Prevention and prophylaxis of pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy is, as we have already said, a considerable risk for both the mother and the future baby. That is why it is necessary to establish different measures in order to prevent it from occurring, as well as to protect and prevent pregnant minors from being harmed.
The first step for this is the establishment of educational policies and plans that integrate sex education in the classroom from an early age, so that it is possible to work on what sex is and the risks that it may entail doing it without protection (not only pregnancy but also venereal diseases) in addition to explaining what prophylactic measures exist and how to use them. Emphasizes the importance of condom use.
It is important to make prophylaxis easily accessible to the entire population regardless of financial ability. The increase in services dedicated to family planning and care for pregnant women can also be of great help, as well as the facilities to obtain oral contraceptives in case of need.
At the family level, it is also of great importance to work on the issue of sexuality, in such a way that the family allows the adolescent to express their fears and doubts as well as solve their doubts and questions. It is important that this environment is communicative and open.
Finally, it is relevant to treat, if necessary, those pregnant adolescents who present problems derived from their condition, such as depression and loss of self-esteem or lack of social support, both from the environment and from the institutions and various professions of the health and social branches.
- Lohan, M., Cruise, S., O’halloran, P., Alderlice, F., Hyde, A. (2010). Adolescent men’s attitudes in relation to pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes: a systematic review of the literature from 1980-2009. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 47: 327-345. [On-line]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20864002.
- Mendoza Tascón, LA. Claros Benítez, DI, Peñaranda Ospina, CB (2016). Early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy: state of the art. Revista Chilena Obstetricia y Ginecología, 81 (3): 243-253.
- Sobeida, M. and Blázquez Morales, L. (2012). Teenage pregnancy Electronic Magazine Medicine, Health and Society.