Bruce & Alison
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Culture in the western world has changed, and with the social dynamic that governs what is acceptable and what is not. One of the changes is in the area of pregnancy. At one time anyone having babies after their teens would have been thought old. These days, teens are supposed to remain childless and are deemed by society to be unfit to raise a child.
Unfortunately, unlike times past, today's teens are usually pregnant by accident rather than by desire. This means that there is a big difference in how the pregnancy is accepted by the teen's family. Many parents will be dismayed at their child's "mistake" and often are unsure of how to handle the situation. Knowledge of their parents' beliefs leads teenage girls to hide their pregnant status as long as possible, fearing a negative reaction and a feeling of having "failed". This means that the teen herself may live in a state of denial where she is afraid to seek medical help during her early pregnancy. Unaware of the importance of prenatal procedures, she can put her baby at risk by not taking prenatal vitamins, or not stopping any intake of alcohol or cigarettes in her attempts to remain "normal" to everyone she is in contact with. In her efforts to hide her weight gain she is likely to reduce her own food intake, thus depriving her body sufficient nutrition to feed herself correctly, let alone her baby.
Once the pregnancy is out in the open, she is then forced not only to deal with her options, but also her future. Many teen girls still in high school are "encouraged" to drop out during the later stages of pregnancy because they may "influence" other girls to get into their position, or it sullies the reputation of the school. If they are in their final year or two this can mean that they never return, not wishing to be placed in a class with younger students now that their peers have moved on to college or employment. Without their high school diploma, employment options for more than minimum wage will be scarce, and so if they are raising the child themselves, they will be in an extremely low income bracket and needing the support of family and/or welfare. Getting out of this cycle isn't so easy. Stressing the importance of maintaining their education and getting their high school has to be one of the priorities of anyone responsible for a pregnant teen.
High schools must start to take a more pro-active part in educating the girls in their care. There is firstly the issue about educating them about sex and pregnancy prevention. It shouldn't stop there however. Girls also need to be educated about what happens if they do get pregnant. Even if they use protection, mistakes happen. They need to know what to do should this happen to them before it happens. They need to know what the process is, what they need to do to have a healthy pregnancy, who to talk to for confidential advice/intervention with parents should that be needed. They also need to know what their options are and the implications of each of these. Not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term because pregnancy may end with the birth of the baby, but if the teenager has chosen to keep her baby once it is born, she needs to know what to expect both as a mother, and as a woman raising a child alone.
Having a pregnant teen in the family can send the dynamics of a family into a crisis situation if emotions and beliefs are put before the well-being of the teen and the baby she carries. A teen who has a supportive network of family and educators around her will be able to access resources and information which will lead her to make the right choices for herself and the baby both during her pregnancy, and in her plans for their future.