Teenage pregnancy is a problem that the society is faced with in the world and therefore it calls for the attention from parents, the government and the entire society. There has been a decline in the cases of teenage pregnancy especially in the United States though it has been studied to be amongst the leading in the cases. This paper examines the problem of teenage pregnancy from a wider perspective in terms of the causes, the implication on both the teenage mother and child, the emerging issues and further recommends on the intervention measures by everybody so as to help reduce the cases.
The paper aims at investigating the situation on the ground concerning cases of teenage pregnancies.
The paper also seeks to provide answers to some of the issues emerging with the increase in incidences of teenage pregnancy.
The paper endeavors to suggest possible prevention measure that can reduce the vulnerability of teenagers to pregnancies.
Teenage pregnancy in simple terms can be defined as the phenomenon or act of an underage or teenage girl becoming pregnant.Teenagehood in this context refers to girls who are between that age of 13 and 17 years. The term can be used to women who have not reached adulthood age and this varies from one place to another across the world. (Treffers 2006)
The rate of teenage pregnancy has been recorded highest in the United States according to statistics. But at the same time there has been notable decline in the cases of teen pregnancies due to some reasons which have been discussed in the literature review.
The highest prevailing rates of teenage pregnancy have been reported in parts of sub-Saharan Africa due to very important factors such as early marriages.
Causes of teenage pregnancy
The main cause of teenage pregnancy is sexual activity and this is whether it is voluntary or it is involuntary.
From an African context marriage can begin at an early age in life as long as the woman is mature enough to conceive. Sexual maturity has witnessed most teenagers being married and hence resulting in cases of teenage pregnancies. In some parts of Africa when a woman becomes pregnant at this early age the society views this in terms of blessings. In other countries like India incidences of early marriages occur in the traditional rural communities unlike in the towns.
From this point of view teenage pregnancies caused as a result of early marriages ca be said to be planned. This is because the parents and the teenagers are made aware of the fact that they are supposed to get married and definitely they would get pregnant very soon after getting married.
Most of the teenage pregnancies especially in the developing world are unexpected as statistics indicate. Most young girls are allowed to have sexual relationships and information about sexuality is well supplied to the teenagers. This gives them a better opportunity to decide for themselves and in the event some get into sexual activity and hence get pregnant. (Treffers 2006)
Some teenagers have also confirmed that they got into sexual activity as a result of peer pressure. It is important to emphasize the fact that peer pressure during teenage life influences the feeling of most people and can end up leading the teenagers into the risk of getting pregnant at this early age.
There are a number of methods available to the teenagers for controlling births. These methods include condoms, intrauterine devices, oral contraceptives, diaphragms, spermicides and cervical caps. Most teenagers have knowledge and access to the common methods such as the pregnancy pills and the condoms. Lack of knowledge can also be a factor contributing to the instances but it is only to a minor extent. The truth of the matter is that most teenagers even though have knowledge and access to contraceptives there is a likelihood that they suffer from improper use of the devices and thus end up getting pregnant. This is because most of them and impregnated by their fellow teens. There is great risk of all of them in the act not being responsible to use properly contraceptives such as condom. Research has revealed that in some cases while in the sexual act there can be compromise amongst the teens and this would in some cases cause pregnancies.( Allen 2007)
According to studies done in the UK concerning abortion, most of the teenager who opt for abortion were found to have made use of the same contraceptives as adult women. This is an indicator that the teenagers are to some extent aware of all the methods of contraception only that it is the improper use that leads to pregnancies.
The use of some contraceptives by some teenagers has proved to be inadequate in some cases. Most of the teenage girls do not understand well the use of contraceptives and some even end up forgetting to take oral contraception after the sexual intercourse. By the time they remember to take the contraceptives, conception may have started. Therefore in essence such a case , the teenager may be convinced that contraception has taken place when actually in the real case there is conception in progress.
Differences in age in relationships
Studies have demonstrated that indeed there are incidences whereby relationships are characterized by age discrepancies with most cases being the male being much older than some teenage girls. According to the Family Research Council in most of the teenage pregnancies that were reported the teenage girls were made pregnant by men who were much older than them. Therefore this cannot be overlooked as one of the factors that contribute towards teenage pregnancies. Research has also established that teenage girls dating older boys or even older man were on the higher risk of getting pregnant those teenage girls who date boys within their age bracket. In most of the cases the teenage girls who are impregnated by older boys or man are likely to carry on with the pregnancy than those who date boys of the same age. Statistical facts from California in the year 1990 showed that men above high school age had fathered most of the pregnancies in the high school aged girls.In some cases still , there are incidences whereby most teenage girls are raped or sexually assaulted by men who are older than them. Compared with mothers who were not abused, pregnant teenage girls have been noted to have had sexual encounters or relationships with older partners. (Rhode, Deborah 2007)
A considerable proportion of teenage pregnancies have in the past been caused by rape. This is represents from some figure between 10 and 20 %This is according to statistics carried out on rape and abortion. This when compared to older women who got into unwanted sexual experiences is around 60%.At the age of anything below 16 years most of the sexual activities in girls have been shown to be involuntary. According to Guttmacher institute majority of the women who get into sex below the age of 15 have been forced into the act by a man who is older than them even with five to six years.
In some reported incidences some teenage fathers have made confessions of forcing the young girls to have sexual intercourse with them and in the event ended up with the teenage pregnancies. (Treffers 2006)
Violence in dating
According to studies conducted on teenage pregnancies most of the teenage mothers conceived while in very abusive relationships. The knowledge of the pregnancy in the relationships has even made matters worse with the increased rate of violence within the relationship. Studies in the UK have mentioned that about 70% of teenage mothers were experiencing domestic violence from their households. This has an implication that the violence may have even been used to sabotage the birth control intention by the teenage mothers.
Socio economic environment
Poverty is cause of teenage pregnancy because of the prevailing environment and situations. From a narrow point of view most teenage mother may have got pregnant while in the event of trying to solve socio economic problems when men or older boys utilize the opportunity to exploit them sexually with the pretext of catering for their needs. This can also be explained by the increased cases of teenage pregnancies in poor countries such as Niger than in the world powers like Japan.
Vulnerability of the environment
In some cases the pre-existing child environments have exposed them to the danger of getting pregnant at this tender age. This is particularly with environments that are characterized with domestic violence and family strife. Studies have shown the most teenage mothers had their fathers leave the household at an earlier age. (Treffers 2006)
The impact of teenage pregnancy
Most of the consequences of teenage pregnancy center on the affected child. Motherhood at this early age has a number of implications to the life of the teenager and the child born out of the pregnancy.
The issue of motherhood at teenage age can affect the life of the child from different angles. First of all some of the teens cannot undergo the normal delivery during birth and this therefore calls for other interventions which may not be good for the health of the mother in future. Complications are also high in teenage pregnancies especially if they do not get the required medical attention. Research studies have indicated that in some cases of teenage pregnancies the affected girls only reveal the situation in the second trimester or late in the first trimester of the pregnancy. Such complications can even be carried out to the child and can end up with pre mature births.
Psychologically the teenage mother is affected because she will have a difficult time in coping with the changing life. The fear of rejection and discrimination from the peers cannot be underestimated.
Education wise teenage pregnancy affects the education of the child in the sense that the beginning of motherhood means that education of the mother would be halted before the child develops.
There is emerging argument that teen associated pregnancies are closely tied to poverty.
Most of the teenagers who bear children at this early age end up in poverty. The case is worse in the developing countries where there are high teenage pregnancies and poverty rates. (Treffers 2006)
Pregnancy at teenage age is one of the causes of school drop outs especially in the underdeveloped world. Still in the developed world teenage mothers have to postpone their studies first to attend to their needs. Even after returning to school most of the teenage mothers cannot perform well in academics as compared to the other adolescents.
This implies that teenage pregnancy is a problem that affects the education and specifically the academic performance of the adolescents.
Implications on the child
It is a fact that majority of teenage girls cannot take good care of themselves while in the pregnancy period as compared to adult pregnant mothers. This simply means that their pregnancies have a number of implications on the child born out of this pregnancy. Due to poor attention to prenatal care most of the children out of teenage pregnancies are born prematurely.
Due to a combination of factors surrounding them, teenage mothers are unlikely to gain the required weigh in the course of their pregnancy. The consequence of this low weight is that they give birth to children who are underweight. This is one major cause of infant related disorders and an increase in the rate of infant mortality rates. The worst situation occurs when the low birth weight children have underdeveloped organs that can even cause bleeding ion the brain and other devastating effects.
Another important issue concerning this type of pregnancy is the issue of nutrition. It has been found out that most teenage pregnant mothers have very poor eating habits and this result in poor nutrition. This is because most of them do not take the recommended nutrition
Majority of the children born out of teenage pregnancies are likely to suffer from neglect and abuse. Many uncertainties surround teenage mothers concerning their responsibilities. It is unlikely that the teenage mothers would take all the responsibilities of the baby. Pressure may be coming from different corners of the environment and this exposes the child to suffering and neglect because of lack of the necessary attention the child deserves from the mother.
Teenage born out of teen pregnancies are not likely to perform in education like the rest born out of older parents. Most of the children born out of teenage pregnancies are low performers in class on administration of standard tests.
It has also been argued that boys who are born by teen mothers have a likelihood of getting involved in antisocial behavior and might end up in prison in the course of their life.
Also there is a high possibility of girls born out of teenage mothers following the footsteps of their teenage mothers and end up becoming pregnant in their teenage.
Combating teenage pregnancies
Various studies have been undertaken by scientists and various organizations and groups concerning the effective ways of addressing this problem.
Some groups argue for sex education while others claim that this would further heighten the problem of teen pregnancies.
Focusing on the scientific strategy it is vital to underscore the point that indeed cases of teenage pregnancies can be reduced substantially if there is investment in sex education. In this context , sex education should be focused on the proper use of contraceptives and practicing safe sex behavior. Even though it looks as if it will lead to more cases , let it be known that with technology and development children are maturing early enough and get access to risk factors that further propel the problem.Theferore enforcing sex education would provide a good intervention approach as the teenager have an opportunity of gaining from truths from experienced people in the society.
It is also important not to overlook the position of the conservatives in the United states who claim that total abstinence is the solution to the teenage pregnancy problem. From a religious perspective, they argue that since it is sinful for teenagers to engage in sexual activity then there is no need for them to be exposed to sex education since this can be seen as giving them permission to go ahead with sexual activity. Therefore in their view sex education increases sexual activity in the teenagers. In stead of sex education, they argue that teenagers should be shielded from sex education and be warned of the dire consequences of engaging in sexual activity at this early age.
All in all, a better approach for managing combating teenage pregnancy should be multifaceted and should take a joint out look. This is whereby parents, the government, health providers and religious groups should work together towards reducing this problem. The current situation especially in the US education system whereby some schools call for total abstinence and do not provide sexual education while others are providing should not arise if the problem is to be prevented. (Santelli 2006).
In approaches whereby parents have been involved in sending the message right on the issue of sexual activity, positive results have been realized with some of the children abstaining or using contraception to prevent pregnancies.
The use of youth development programmes is one important approach that has gained momentum in the United States and it has so far managed to bring out good results if well conducted and managed.
Studies have mentioned a multifaceted approach to be more effective in preventing teenage pregnancy because of a number of reasons. Firstly according to Alan Guttmacher, the reason why there has been a decline in teen pregnancy cases in the United States, concerns the use of the new and more available hormonal contraception amongst the sexually active teenagers. Total abstinence cannot also be overlooked with its outstanding contribution towards the decline. Behavioral changes in the young women have therefore led to a shift in attitudes and policies in the society concerning intervention for the problem of teenage pregnancy. (Santelli 2006)
In conclusion it is important to mention that with the modern society it is important to face the reality of teenage pregnancy with caution. All policies and even attitudes should recognize the fact that most of the sexual activity in women start during teenage. This therefore calls for supportive environment that should provide adequate sex education alongside affordable and more accessible contraception and supplies.
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