Surviving an unplanned pregnancy can be challenging, even for adults and teens face even more challenges. But, if you make good choices you can have a happy healthy pregnancy. Keep reading for tips on surviving your pregnancy and what to expect during your pregnancy.
When a teen is pregnant, she and her family may feel overwhelmed by the choices and changes she has to face. This article offers some tips on surviving a teen’s unplanned pregnancy.
According to U.S. Health and Human Services, 1 in 3 girls will get pregnant before she turns twenty. Almost 1 million teens get pregnant every year. Most of these pregnancies are unplanned, and cause turmoil for the teen mother, the baby’s father, and their families. Some common feelings that teens and their families may experience about surviving an unplanned pregnancy include:
- Sadness or depression
Pregnant teens and their families may go through some or all of these reactions. Teens are often afraid to admit they are pregnant, even to themselves, especially since at first a pregnant teen probably won’t “feel” pregnant. Despite this, because a teen’s body is still developing it’s important that a teen get medical care early in her pregnancy, as soon as she knows she is pregnant. She should try to get support from parents or another caring adult who can help her find the best care and get through the ups and downs of pregnancy.
Pregnant teens have to make some very important decisions, such as what to do with the baby. They have several choices:
- Many teens choose to raise their baby as single mothers, often with the support of family members. Teens may have an idealistic notion about raising a baby alone and not understand the disadvantages and challenges it poses to the mother and baby.
- The teen may marry the baby’s father and raise the baby together. Whether or not this is a good option depends a lot on the age and maturity of the mother and father, and how stable their relationship is. Even if the mother and father do not marry, in the US the father is required to provide child support to the baby and the mother.
- An appealing option for many teens is to place the baby for adoption. The adoption may be closed, where the adoptive parents and birth parents have no contact, or it may be open, where the birth mother continues to have contact with the baby and the adoptive parent as the child grows up. Adoption provides more opportunities for both the baby and the mother.
- While Andere Foundation does not advocate this option, some teens may also consider abortion, or ending the pregnancy before the baby is born. This can have physical and emotional complications for the teen, and may increase her risk for depression and substance abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In many states teens must get parental consent to have an abortion.
When a teen is trying to decide what to do, she should talk to trusted adults, like parents, counselors, and religious leaders, and also to other people who have had similar experiences or made the choice she is considering.
One of the first steps for surviving an unplanned pregnancy is to visit a family doctor or obstetrician. Teens who can’t afford a doctor can get help through programs like Medicaid or their State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The doctor will check the teen’s health by taking blood and urine samples, doing a pelvic exam, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. If the teen continues to be sexually active she should use a condom to prevent infections.
The doctor will also help the teen establish a healthy diet, including:
- A prenatal vitamin
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Plenty of milk, dairy products, or calcium-rich dairy substitutes
- Sources of protein, like beans, peanut butter, and lean meats
- Limiting extra fat, caffeine, and junk foods
- Quitting any harmful habits like drinking alcohol, smoking, or using drugs
- Drinking plenty of water
Teens may need guidance for healthy weight gain and exercise during pregnancy. Pregnant teens shouldn’t try to lose weight while pregnant, but also shouldn’t put on too much weight.
Doctors can also provide information on what to expect during pregnancy, like:
- Morning sickness and food aversions
- Food cravings and increased appetite
- Feeling tired often and needing extra sleep
- Swollen breasts
- Feeling the baby move
- Swelling and weight gain
- Hair growth or loss
- Skin changes
- Changes in vision
- Aches and pains
- Feeling contractions
- Labor and childbirth, including pain relief during labor
Doctors, childbirth education classes, and parenting materials from the hospital, clinic, local library, or reliable internet sites are also good sources of information on pregnancy, childbirth, and what to expect after the baby is born.
Teens who will be raising their baby need to prepare by getting a safe car seat and crib, and other things for the baby like clothes and diapers. They also need to learn what to expect from their baby, such as the fact that babies can be very demanding and exhausting, and that new mothers may feel tired, irritated, and even depressed.
Pregnant teens also need to think about what they will do after the pregnancy.
They should try to complete school or get their GED so they have more options in the future.
Support groups may be available through community, religious, or medical organizations for pregnant teens and their families to help them through the ups and downs of an unplanned pregnancy. Pregnant teens whose families are not supportive or who are afraid someone might hurt them especially need to seek help with surviving an unplanned pregnancy.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4Parents.gov, “Teen Pregnancy” [online]
Nemours, TeensHealth, “Having a Healthy Pregnancy” [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, “When Your Teen is Having a Baby” [online]
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “When Children Have Children” [online]
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Especially for Teens: Having a Baby” [online]