Recent statistics have shown a continuing increase in teen pregnancy in the
United States. This increase is of particular concern because teen mothers and
their babies face increased risks to their health. The birth rate for young
teens (age 15 to 17) is steadily rising. Between 1986 and 1991, the rate
increased by 27 percent (from a rate of 30.5 to a rate of 38.
7 per 1,000 women).
In 1991 (the most recent year for which data are available), nearly 4 in 100
girls ages 15 to 17 had a baby.(1) About 1 million teenagers become pregnant
each year, and more than 530,000 give birth.(1) Nearly 13% of all U.S. births in
1991 were to teens.
(1) Teenage Pregnancy Essay and birth rates in the U.S. exceed
those in most developed countries.(2) Teens too often have poor eating habits,
and may smoke, drink alcohol and take drugs, increasing the risk that their
babies will be born with health problems. Pregnant teens are least likely of all
maternal age groups to get early and regular prenatal care. In 1991,11 percent
of teen mothers received late or no prenatal care.
(1) (The overall average is 6
percent.) A teenage mother is more at risk of pregnancy complications such as
premature or prolonged labor, anemia and high blood pressure. These risks are
even greater for teens who are less than 15 years old.(3) Three million teens
are affected by sexually transmitted diseases annually, out of the 12 million
cases reported.(4) These include chlamydia (which can cause sterility), syphilis
(which can cause blindess, death, and death to the infant) and AIDS, which is
fatal to the mother and can infect the infant. A baby born to a teenage mother
is more at risk than a baby born to an older mother.
Nine percent of teenage
girls have low-birthweight babies (under 5.5 lbs.), compared to 7 percent of all
mothers nationally.(1) Low-birthweight babies may have organs that are not fully
developed. This can lead to lung problems such as respiratory distress syndrome,
or bleeding in the brain. Low-birthweight babies are 40 times more likely to die
in their first month of life than normal-weight babies.
Life is often difficult
for a teenage mother and her child. One in three teen mothers drops out of high
school. With her education cut short, a teenage mother may lack job skills,
making it hard for her to find and keep a job. A teenage mother may become
financially dependent on her family or on welfare. Teens may not have developed
good parenting skills, or have social-support systems to help them deal with the
stress of raising an infant. The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation The
mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing
birth defects and infant mortality.
Through its Campaign for Healthier Babies,
the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and
advocacy. Because of the risks involved in teen pregnancy to both mother and
child, the March of Dimes strongly urges teenage girls to delay childbearing.
Teens who are already pregnant can improve their chances of having a healthy
baby by: ~Getting early and regular prenatal care from a doctor or clinic.
~Eating a nutritious and balanced diet. ~Consuming 0.4 milligrams of folic acid
(the amount found in most multivitamin supplements) daily to reduce the risk of
serious birth defects of the brain and spine.
~Avoiding smoking (and secondhand
smoke when possible) and alcoholic beverages. ~Avoiding all drugs, unless
recommended by a doctor or health care provider who is aware of the pregnancy.
Programs and educational materials relating to teen pregnancy are available from
the March of Dimes, including the brochures, "Teens Talk Sex,"
"Teens Talk Drugs" and "AIDS…What We Need to Know" and the
"Clear Vision" and "Rockabye" audiovisuals, which are aimed
at the junior high and high school audience.
Contact your local March of Dimes
chapter for ordering information.
Health Care .