Each year, approximately 400,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth. Teens are more likely to have complications during delivery and they are more likely to drop out of school or have lower scores academically if they continue their education. Their infants are more likely to be premature or have low birth weight, which puts them at a higher risk for health complications later in life.
Sadly, it seems that not a lot of teens know about these potential risks because 22 percent of all pregnant teens stated that they didn’t care if they got pregnant and nearly half of all teen mothers say that they were not using birth control when they conceived. Even worse is the fact that nearly 31 percent of the teens who did not use contraception actually thought they couldn’t get pregnant, for one reason or another.
Of the remaining teen mothers who didn’t use birth control, 24 percent answered that their partner didn’t want to use contraception, 13 percent stated that they experienced difficulty in getting birth control, 9 percent said they experienced side effects and had stopped using it and 8 percent thought their sex partner was sterile.
Not all teens were willing to completely abandon birth control, however. Of all teen moms, 21 percent reported that they had used a highly effective birth control method, such as an IUD or birth control pills, and another 24 percent stated that they had used condoms. Sadly, however, previous research has pointed out that many teens that use contraception are inconsistent with its use, which could explain the high number of teen mothers using contraception.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, who completed the report based on data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System from 2004 to 2008, say that parents and doctors can play a key role in reducing the teen pregnancy rate. They offered a few tips: helping teens strengthen their negotiation skills when it comes to talking to their partners about contraception, making contraception more accessible and encouraging teens to use a highly effective form of birth control. These are all great tips, but I’d like to add a few more.
I was one of those teen moms that thought she couldn’t get pregnant. I got pregnant at 16. My parents didn’t talk to me about sex except to tell me that I couldn’t do it. They didn’t talk to me about contraception because, in their minds, I wasn’t going to have sex. Sexual education didn’t discuss birth control or safe sex either. Now, I have heard that sexual education is getting better, but essentially, it is our job, as parents, to educate our teens about sex.
I don’t regret having my son. I love him with everything that I am. Yet, there are so many things in my life that might have been different if I hadn’t gotten pregnant at 16. So, as a teen mother, I want my children to know the truth.
Trust me – talking to your teen about sex is extremely uncomfortable. But they need to know the truth. They need to know that they can rely on you when they need contraception or when they have questions about sex. There is a reality in the teenage mind, and that is that they are growing up and they can make their own decisions. And trust me, they will. You can forbid them from sexual activity, but you really can’t stop them. What you can do is offer your support, educate them.
Teenagers need to know that if they are having sex and not using contraceptives, not only CAN they get pregnant, they probably will. Explain how important it is that they use contraception correctly and how missing a pill even just one time can result in a pregnancy. Offer to help your teen get contraceptives if they need them. Encourage them to use a method that has a low-failure rate, such as an IUD. Changes are happening in contraceptives every day and many of those changes are for the better. Most of all show your teen that you are willing to listen to their concerns about sex, including concerns about their partner not wanting to use contraceptives.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that teens are emotionally ready for sexual relationships. I know I wasn’t. I don’t advocate or encourage sex among teenagers. But I know that when you shove sex under the rug and refuse to talk about it, you sever any hope of preventing teen pregnancy in your teenage daughter. I am living proof and so are many other teen moms, both past and present.
Of course, there’s still that 22 percent of teens that didn’t care if they got pregnant. I went to school with some of those girls. They rubbed my belly, told me how lucky I was to be pregnant and how much they wanted to have a baby too….
Raising a baby isn’t all cute and cuddly and babble. It’s up all night, fussy, crying, screaming, colicky, haven’t brushed your teeth at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. As parents, we know this. We raised our children. Unfortunately, our teens don’t know it. Talking could help, but I think these girls needed more. Even I, their peer, tried to explain it to them and they didn’t get it. Maybe what these girls needed was a baby cousin to babysit for a few days or a job at a daycare center. I can’t say for sure because I wasn’t like them. I wasn’t excited about having a baby and I didn’t want one.
I will say, however, that my oldest son has, quite verbally, stated that he doesn’t even want kids until he is MUCH older….that could have something to do with the fact that I have always made my older children help with my youngest two children, who are now 2 and 3. I hope it works.
- Teen Mom Hailed for Incredible Sacrifice by Family
- Free Contraceptives Recommended by Institute of Medicine
- Teen Pregnancy Glamorized?