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It is important to discuss the concept of pregnancy before delving into what teenage pregnancy really is. Pregnancy, in broad terms, is a condition whereby a female human being carries a fetus in their womb. This is because of the fertilization caused by fission of the male sperm and female egg in the fallopian tube.
The fetus grows gradually in the womb eventually becoming a human species with all organs well developed after nine months after which the baby is born. It is also crucial to note that this development can happen in the body of any woman who has menstrual cycles irrespective of the woman’s age (Kaplowitz, 2006).
Teenage refers to the age between thirteen years and twenty years. This is the period when most, if not all human beings, are at their puberty stages and are very sexually active. At this stage though, neither the female nor the male are ready to assume the role of parenthood as they themselves are still considered as minors.
Unfortunately, most teenagers are so curious and most have the urge to have sex at this early age. Since most of them are, do not have much knowledge regarding sex, most female teenagers end up being pregnant at this minor age. This is what is referred to as teenage pregnancy as the women in question are not yet above twenty years old.
Teenage pregnancy in many countries is considered illegal. This is because the pregnant women are still minors who should be at the care of their parents. In most cases, these minors become pregnant without their conscious knowledge and most are not ready to carry pregnancies at this age.
There many cases reported of teenage pregnancies in not only the United States but also the world over. These cases vary from one region to another depending on the region’s economic status. It has been recorded that the poorer the region the higher the rate of teenage pregnancy. This therefore means that teenage pregnancy is more prevalent in the developing countries than in the developed countries.
A study showed that out of every 143 teenagers become pregnant out every 1000 in sub Saharan Africa. This compared to 2.9 teenagers out of the same number in south Korea is an alarming rate and can be reason enough to say that poverty is a major contributor of teenage pregnancy as countries in the sub Saharan region are poor. It is alarming per se according to research that about 13.5 million children are born of teenagers. Majority of these teenagers are mostly in the developing countries.
Effects of Teen Pregnancy
Among the issues stated earlier, there are more causes of teenage pregnancy rather than curiosity and being sexually active. Studies have shown that teenage pregnancies in the developed countries are associated with lower economic status, lack of education and are in most communities a taboo.
Most of these teenage pregnancies are outside marriage as it is very unusual to find a minor in this case a teenager being married in the developed world. Teenage pregnancy in the developed world is highly stigmatized and is considered a social ill (Macionis, 2010).
On the other hand, though not as socially accepted, communities in the developing countries do not stigmatize teenage pregnancy. This is because; teenagers are married off to older men way before they are adults. It therefore follows that teenage births are well within marriage in most communities in the developing countries.
In the sub Saharan region of Africa, therefore, many women give birth to their first children before the age of eighteen. Some communities like the Maasai in Kenya have been known to marry of teenage girls to older men leading to the high number of teenage pregnancy in such communities.
In the western world, especially in Western Europe and middle income countries like South Korea and Singapore, there have been decreased rate of women fertility. Because of this, the age at which women give birth has increased reducing the number of teenage pregnancy.
Teenage pregnancy can also be attributed to poor or lack of sex education among teenagers in most countries and communities. In fact, this could be the major contributing factor of teenage pregnancy. Very few teenagers understand the issues regarding sexual intercourse and the use of contraceptives. In a study done in the United States, about 53% of all teens lack information regarding sexual intercourse and the use of contraceptives.
US record the highest number of teenage pregnancies among the developed world. It is usually very rare for parents to approach the issue of sexuality to their teenage children. This education is not also offered in schools or is sometimes offered in limited quantities and quality. Lack of sexual education therefore contributes a lot to teenage pregnancy.
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There is also the issue of peer pressure and drugs and substance abuse. Most teenagers are pressured to have sex at an early age by their peers. This is more so with girls who are easy prey for older men. A girl is more likely to be involved in a sexual act as a teenager as would a boy.
It is wrongly considered trendy by many girls to have sex way off before they become adults. It has been observed that most teenage girls at the age of between 15 and 18 will have sex with men the age of 25 and above. These men are way off beyond these girls in terms of age and experience. They would therefore very easily lure these girls into having sex with them. Young teenage have a false conception that having sex with their boyfriends would result to the boy friend loving them more.
There is also the issue of drugs and substance abuse. Most teenagers are very outgoing. They may be involved in drugs and substance abuse. Considering that these drugs especially alcohol are easily accessible, they abuse these drugs which as a result impair their judgment.
A teenager is more likely under the influence of alcohol is involved in unprotected sex, as would an adult. Such cases in most cases result to teenage pregnancies and are unintentional. Most teenage pregnancies although whether under the influence of drugs or not are unwanted and unintentional.
Another major cause of teenage promiscuity leading to teenage pregnancies is the explicit exposure to the media. Most often than not, the main stream media portrays sex and sexual activities as trendy totally misleading their audience teens as a result. The media instead of contributing to educational matters these days concentrates instead on what is appealing to their audience.
Educational stuff or material most of the times lacks an adequate audience and is not good for business. This has led to the media having content that are positively inclined to sex thus totally misleading the teenagers who happen to form the widest and the majority of their audience.
Most teenage girls who end up being pregnant are also associated with single parenthood especially in families that lack a father figure. It seems to be a cycle where young women get children out of marriage resulting to single parenthood thus interfering with the social structure of what a family ought to be.
Lack of a father figure who in most cases denies having fathered the teenage babies affects a lot teenage girls in such families. Such girls are pushed by circumstances to seek father figures in older men who in most cases take advantage of them leading o teenage pregnancies thus perpetuating the cycle (Ellis, 2003).
There are also psychological factors that lead to teenage pregnancy. Some parents become over protective especially about their teenage daughters. This stringent upbringing can result to rebelliousness on the part of the teenage girl due to the feeling of lack of love and freedom. This couple with the lack of proper sexual education and bombardment from the media and other factors will most often than not lead to the teenager being involved in sexual activities. This in most cases lead to teenage pregnancies.
The issue of poverty in the developing countries prevents the teenage girls from using contraceptive if they even know about them at all. Considering that teenagers are sexually active, it becomes an obvious fact that these teenagers are going to take a risk by having unprotected sex leading in most cases if not all too teenage pregnancy.
Having highlighted some of the causes of teenage pregnancy, it is important now that we see the effects or the impact of teenage pregnancy to the young individual mothers as well as to the society (Macleod, 1999).
Giving birth can be strenuous to an adult woman who is fully aware of her condition and who is having adequate prenatal care. It thus can be detrimental to a teenage girl whose body is not even fully developed to give birth.
Most teenagers will not disclose their conditions to their parents or to any one else unless it is their secret confidant. This becomes potentially dangerous to the teenage girls due to the lack of prenatal care and the fact that her body is not fully developed to carry a pregnancy. A pregnant teenager requires even more prenatal care than her elder counterpart does.
This is because her body is still developing and requires a lot of nutrition to do so. This therefore calls for extra care to a pregnant teenager in order to have both the mother and the child developing on well without any complications. Lack of this care might be potentially dangerous to teenage mothers and can lead to the death of either of them or both. In case of a stillbirth, the teenager may be severely impaired psychologically.
How to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy
Considering the stigma that comes along with teenage pregnancy especially in the western world, most teenagers prefer not to expose their condition thus risking both their life’s and that their unborn babies. Going on with their daily lives as if nothing is happening in their bodies can be potentially harmful and dangerous to the pregnant teenagers.
This is what usually happens to many pregnant teenagers leading to birth complications. These complications can harm the mother as not to have the ability to have any more children or can even kill her and her baby. It should be noted here that teenage mothers despite their age could give birth to very normal and healthy babies if given proper and appropriate prenatal care.
There is also the issue of abortion. Most teenagers are encouraged by their peers to carry out an abortion whenever they get pregnant. Some go through the process successfully after visiting qualified medical practitioner where this practice is legalized. In countries where abortion is illegal, the teenagers are forced to go to unscrupulous medical personnel or try to induce abortion themselves. Death of both the teenage mother and the child is usually the result in most such cases.
Other than the physical and health complications associated with teenage pregnancy, there are other social and environmental effects associated with teenage pregnancies. At the top of the list of these effects is the loss of an opportunity to continue with one’s education.
Most often than not, a teenager, who has given birth is forced out of school to assume the responsibility of parenthood. This happens in most developing countries in the sub Saharan region where there is prevalence of poverty.
Parents of such teenagers are in most cases not capable of supporting both the teenage mother and the child. The teenage mother subsequently leaves her education. Lack of education means that it is very difficult for the teenage mothers to secure any meaningful employment. This leads to a perpetuating the cycle of poverty (Treffers, 2003).
Psychological problems on the part of the teenage mother coupled with the trauma and the stigmatization can result to a teenage mother committing suicide. There are cases of teenagers, which have been recorded of teenage suicides due to pregnancy leading to children growing without parents. Other than the teen mothers, the teen babies are also affected both physically and psychologically.
A teenager baby could be born with health complications due to poor prenatal care. This coupled with poor postnatal care may result to impaired growth and other health complications. The child may also be affected psychologically especially in cases where the parent neglects the child or the parent takes away her life leading to a life without parental care (East and Jacobson, 2001).
Teenage pregnancies can although be substantially be lowered especially in the regions where there are most prevalent which is the USA and sub Saharan Africa. There should be proper sex education in schools and at homes. There should be limited sexual content in the media and more of sexual education. The sexual content in the media should also be limited to a particular group of audience rather than being exposed to everyone.
The society should be made aware of the social and physical implications of teenage pregnancies to avoid stigmatization so that the few teenage pregnancies occurring as a result can be cared for appropriately instead of being ignored completely.
All in all the most important aspect of preventing teenage pregnancies or lowering the cases of teenage pregnancies is the creation of awareness not only to the teenagers but to the entire society as well. The society should be made aware that teenage pregnancies in most cases are a set back to the economy as they bring about uncontrolled population growth among many other effects.
East, P.L., Jacobson, L. (2001). The Younger Siblings of Teenage Mothers. USA: Yale University Press.
Ellis, B. (2003). Child Development, Father Figure Influence. Journal of Child Development, 23. 4: 4-5.
Kaplowitz, P (2006). Pubertal Development in Girls: Secular Trends. Journal of Child Development, 23. 4: 41-55.
Macleod, C. (1999). The Causes of Teenage Pregnancy. Cape Town: Cape Town Publishers.
Treffers, P.E. (2003). Teenage Pregnancy, a Worldwide Problem. Amsterdam: Flemish Publishers.
Macionis, J. (2010). Society: The Basics. New York: Cenagage Publishing.