Teen Pregnancy: Medical Risks and Realities
Do you have the facts about teen pregnancy? Do you know the common early signs of pregnancy? How to have a healthy pregnancy at a young age? Here’s information that will help you understand teenage pregnancy.
Teen pregnancy: The facts
In 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available, the U.S. pregnancy rate among girls between 15 and 19 was 67.8 per 1,000, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy. The rate has steadily declined since 1991, when it was 117 per 1,000 teens between the same ages.
U.S. teen birth rates have also declined. In 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate was 34.3 births per 1,000 teens, compared to 61.8 births per 1,000 teens in 1991. Fewer babies were born to teenagers in 2010 than in any year since 1946.
Still, the teen birth rate in the U.S. remains nine times higher than in other developed countries, according to the CDC.
Teen pregnancy: The signs
Missing one or more menstrual periods is the classic sign of pregnancy. But this can be tricky for teenage girls, whose periods aren't yet regular. It can also be tricky for girls whose cycles are off as a result of excessive dieting or exercise, low body fat from sports, or anorexia.
The full list of pregnancy signs includes:
- A missed menstrual period
- Nausea or vomiting -- called "morning sickness," though it can happen throughout the day
- Sudden, intense aversion to certain foods, especially meats or fatty, fried foods
- Sore nipples or breasts
- Unusual fatigue
- Frequent urination
- Unusual mood swings
Of course, a positive pregnancy test is another sign of pregnancy. Today's home pregnancy tests are generally considered accurate. These simple kits can be bought over the counter in drugstores.
Teen pregnancy: Medical risks and realities
Pregnant teens and their unborn babies have unique medical risks.
Lack of prenatal care
Teenage girls who are pregnant -- especially if they don't have support from their parents -- are at risk of not getting adequate prenatal care. Prenatal care is critical, especially in the first months of pregnancy. Prenatal care screens for medical problems in both mother and baby, monitors the baby's growth, and deals quickly with any complications that arise. Prenatal vitamins with folic acid -- ideally taken before getting pregnant -- are essential in helping to help prevent certain birth defects, such as neural tube defects.
High blood pressure
Pregnant teens have a higher risk of getting high blood pressure -- called pregnancy-induced hypertension -- than pregnant women in their 20s or 30s. They also have a higher risk of preeclampsia. This is a dangerous medical condition that combines high blood pressure with excess protein in the urine, swelling of a mother's hands and face, and organ damage.