Thursday, February 20, 2014

Health Care and Teen Pregnancy

Learning that you are going to have a baby in most cases is celebrated as wonderful news to the parents, family members, and friends, unless you are an unwed teenage girl. In those cases, the stigma and fear of the unknown with bringing a new life into the world can be almost devastating to the psyche and emotions of the pregnant teen. However, teen pregnancy is still a major health care issue, not only in the US, but around the world. Girls having sex with boys includes the risk of getting pregnant.

Health officials worry about teen births because adolescent mothers often aren't prepared to handle motherhood either financially or emotionally, and may face more health risks from pregnancy. The good news: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the nation's teen pregnancy rate has been tumbling for two decades, falling by nearly half since 1991.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2011, a total of 329,797 babies were born to teenage women aged 15–19 years, for a live birth rate of 31.3 per 1,000 women in this age group. This is a record low for U.S. teens in this age group, and a drop of 8% from 2010. Birth rates fell 11% for women aged 15–17 years, and 7% for women aged 18–19 years. While reasons for the declines are not clear, teens seem to be less sexually active, and more of those who are sexually active seem to be using birth control than in previous years. More details can be found at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/ .

In 2012, the birth rate for girls aged 15 to 19 was 29 for every 1,000. About 89 percent of the births were in unmarried girls and young women. Hispanics and blacks are much more likely than whites to give birth as teens, according to HHS. Still, the numbers of teen births are fairly high: By one estimate based on 2010 figures, one in every seven adolescent females in the United States will give birth before age 20.

Most teenage girls don't plan to get pregnant, but many do, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Teen pregnancies carry extra health risks to both the mother and the baby. Often, teens don't get prenatal care soon enough, which can lead to problems later on. They have a higher risk for pregnancy-related high blood pressure and its complications. Risks for the baby include premature birth and a low birth weight. If you're a pregnant teen, you can help yourself and your baby by following these guidelines:

·         Getting regular prenatal care.
·         Taking your prenatal vitamins for your health and to prevent some birth defects
·         Avoiding smoking and using drugs and alcohol
·         Using a condom, if you are having sex, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases that could hurt your baby

Declining teen pregnancy rates are thought to be attributed to more effective birth control practice, newer methods of birth control (e.g., long-acting, reversible contraception), and decreased sexual activity among teens, according to this website: http://www.healthcommunities.com/teen-pregnancy/children/overview-of-teen-pregnancy.shtml  .

Still, teenage pregnancy rates remain high and approximately 1 million teenage girls become pregnant each year in the United States and about 13 percent of U.S. births involve teen mothers. To lower teen pregnancy rates, older children must be educated about sex and sexuality and about the consequences of pregnancy.

·         Teenage births are associated with lower annual income for the mother. Eighty percent of teen mothers must rely on welfare at some point.
·         Teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school. Only about one-third of teen mothers obtain a high school diploma.
·         Teenage pregnancies are associated with increased rates of alcohol abuse and substance abuse, lower educational level, and reduced earning potential in teen fathers.
·         In the United States, the annual cost of teen pregnancies from lost tax revenues, public assistance, child health care, foster care and involvement with the criminal justice system is estimated to be about $7 billion.

 Teen pregnancy is a serious issue in America. Here are some mind blowing statistics:
·         3 in 10 teen American girls will get pregnant at least once before age 20. That’s nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies every year.
·         Parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of school. More than half of teen mothers never graduate from high school.
·         Less than 2 percent of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30.
·         About a quarter of teen moms have a second child within 24 months of their first baby.
·         The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the western industrialized world.
·         From 1990 to 2008, the teen pregnancy rate decreased 42 percent (from 117 to 68 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls).
·         In 2008 the teen pregnancy rate among African-American and Hispanic teen girls, age 15 to 19, was over two and a half times higher than the teen pregnancy rate among white teen girls of the same age group.
·         8 out of 10 teen dads don’t marry the mother of their child.
·         A sexually active teen who doesn’t use contraceptives has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year.
·         Almost 50 percent of teens have never considered how a pregnancy would affect their lives.

Additionally, for more information on this topic, the Guttmacher Institute has provided a significant amount of statistics concerning teen sexual activity and pregnancy at this website: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html .

Of course, the safest bet is to maintain abstinence as a teen and avoid sexual contact or intimacy unless you are married. But if the unthinkable happens, and you are not prepared for it, the options are limited--abortion, birthing the child and raising the baby on your own or with family, and adoption. There are ways to handle pregnancy that are better for the child than ending your "mistake." Remember, all life is precious whether in or out of the womb.
So you think teen pregnancy is a problem? Want to do something about it? There are organizations in many communities devoted to preventing teen pregnancy—they are affiliated with churches, synagogues, schools, independent clubs, non-profit organizations, health centers, and reproductive health organizations. Contact your local school board, faith leaders, youth groups, and others who are concerned about young people. You can also talk to parents and teens and educate them about the consequences of unprotected sex and teen pregnancy. In fact, one of the most important things anyone can do is to make sure parents and teens talk about these issues and know the facts, according to http://stayteen.org/teen-pregnancy , and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

UNTIL NEXT TIME.

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