A Teeny Weeny Mom – Trials and Turmoils
“What age did you first have sex?”
My apologies for being audacious enough to put you in such an abominable spot. But the question is pertinent with respect to the topic we are about to approach. “Teen pregnancy” is a menace with far reaching and deeper implications than that meets the eye. It can mean the end to a lot of promising futures. The age is tender, the spirit is indomitable and the decisions are disjointed. A lot of teens choose to ride the waves of the new found hormonal surges and pleasures of unveiling their own sexuality without gauging the after effects of an ill guided moment of passion.
If you are a teen yourself or a parent dreading the unthinkable for your child, read on.
What is teen pregnancy?
Teenage Pregnancy is the pregnancy of a female below the age of 20. It mostly points to a situation where the young teen is not married and is at the receiving end of unplanned sexual activity.
Teen Pregnancy – Facts
- By their 19th birthday, 7 out of 10 teens be it male or female has had intercourse.
- 13 % of teens have had sex by the age of 15.
- If an average was to be considered, young people have sex the first time at about the age of 17. But they get married only around mid 20s. So it can be understood that young adults are at a higher risk of unplanned pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
- The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. However, this rate dropped by 6% between 2008 and 2009.
- About 750,000 American teens get pregnant every year. The state of Nevada has the highest teen birth rate. About 113 out of 1000 teens will have an unintended pregnancy.
- About 1 out of 3 women have one pregnancy before the age of 20.
- Teenagers who choose to be sexually active and do not use contraceptives have a 90% chance of becoming pregnant.
- About 33% of teen mothers complete high school and only 1.5% get a college degree.
- According to the CDC, an estimated 8300 young people between the age of 13 and 24 had AIDS.
- Near half of the 19 million cases of STIs are reported to affect young people between the age of 15 and 24.
- Girls born to teen moms are more likely to become a teen mother themselves. Boys born to teen moms are two times at a higher risk of ending up in jail.
- 8 out of 10 girls and 6 out of 10 boys say they wished that didn’t hurry into sex and had chosen to wait.
- The cost of teenage pregnancy is $9 billion dollars to the exchequer every year.
Kids having Kids – What could be the causes?
Lack of Information:
Parents find it inappropriate to talk about sex. Schools do not educate about sex. The result is that chances are high that the average teen has to rely on hearsays and subscribes to more myths than facts. The low use of contraceptives or other birth control methods can be attributed to ignorance for the most part of it. It is thought that inexpensive and easily available contraception can help to bring down the rates of teen pregnancy. The far reaching after effects as regards to the young mother and the baby who is often born underweight needs to be brought into the fore. There are several implications especially medical when a girl below 14 is involved. Other social consequences too need to be highlighted.
The background of the population one belongs to has to do a lot with the risks of teen pregnancy. In Sub Saharan African countries 143 out of 1000 teenagers are moms whereas the number is just 2.9 per thousand in South Korea. The societal norms, acceptance, religion, background of parents etc has to do a lot when it comes to being a teen mom. Black teens have a higher rate of unwanted pregnancies as compared to white teens.
Socio Economic Factors:
Incomplete or lack of education, low income levels, unemployment, poverty, broken families etc definitely have an impact on the decision to choose unprotected sex or abstain. Having examples of parents or siblings who have been to college, are financially independent, had kids after marriage and living the American dream does help. It is extremely important on part of parents to start early and put forward the prospects of a well informed sexual decision before their adolescent children. A lot of times loneliness stemming from weak family dynamics can result in the young girl giving in to acts of sex. Again the insecurities of losing the guy to another girl could also be behind it all.
European nations having similar percentage of sexual activity among teens of a comparable age have much lower rates of teen pregnancy. In the light of this fact, the state’s failure too could be linked to the current situation. With the economic doldrums at large, an average youth with a high school diploma would rather find it hard to secure a job which would help one to sustain a family. Hence, a reckless sexual behavior would equal to an abandoned pregnant girlfriend. A study reveals that in 1955, only 6% of child birth to teens occurred out of wedlock. Today the percentage is 42%. Besides the current Medicaid policies do not pay for abortion. However, there is childbirth assistance.
Change in cultural norms and the Media onslaught:
A certain Gloucester High School in Massachusetts had a group of 17 girls expecting babies in the summer of 2008. The television series “The Pregnancy Pact” was inspired from the incident. Young girls without weighing in the implications of such a decision got themselves together in a pact whereby they would have babies together and raise them together. Such is the influence of the media onslaught constantly flashing images of young celebrity moms. Sporting a baby bump is almost a fashion accessory now. Movies like “Juno” and “Knocked Up” glamorizes teen pregnancy at its best.Not to mention the likes of Bristol Palin and Justin Bieber who have done their bit too. But the fact one forgets is that the everyone does not live the lives they do.
Sexual Abuse and coercion:
Sexual abuse of teenage girls, rape and coercion on the part of their partners result in a lot of unwanted pregnancies. In about 50% of the cases where a child is born to a teen between 15 and 17 years of age the father is at least 20 years or older. Unsolicited abuse by an adult of an immature minor often results in pregnancy.
Given the complexities of the situation in respect of the cultural, socio economic and demographic factors it is not easy to implement an all uniform solution and breathe a sigh of relief. The measures that has to be taken has to be multi pronged so that little by little success could trickle in. Some of the strategies that could help are as follows:
It is important to start educating kids early. As adolescence is the age when sexual activity starts, it becomes imperative to start advising teens to practice abstinence and delay the initiation of the act of sex. The second approach would be to harp on the importance of contraception among sexually active teens. Demystifying myths and bringing about awareness regarding the possibilities of getting pregnant is extremely important. In the event of dealing with a teen pregnancy, right direction and advice should be tendered to secure the well being of the new mom as well as avoiding future pregnancies. Parents should also be made part to the whole thing and the best place to start educating the youth should be home. Finally, a reality check as to the risks and toils involved in a teenage pregnancy should also be made a part of the program. The program should be meant for both boys and girls alike.
Access to contraceptives:
Access to contraceptives should be made easy and cheap. Besides family planning and sexual clinical services should be made available at the schools. Some speculate that this may in turn see a spike in sexual acts, but studies have proved otherwise. The services should be made available to the rich and poor alike.
It is important to bring forth the prospects of focusing on education, sports or other non academic skills in order to increase the probabilities of finding meaningful employment and leading a successful life. In this context, different services should be made available within the school hours and after whereby vocational training could be imparted to the hopefuls. It is of utmost importance to be responsible in one’s sexual behavior to be able to delay child bearing and give oneself the time and opportunity to succeed in life.
Family Support Programs:
More state sponsored family support programs should be initiated. Counseling and support can help kids not to have their judgment clouded when it comes to a decision that could make or break their life. Happier homes equals to happier kids. Hence, it is important to help restore peace and tranquility at home so that young teens have the ability to grow into stronger individuals who could exercise self control, restraint and discipline.