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Teenage Pregnancy Essay, Research Paper

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 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.

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