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Teen Pregnancy and Mental Health

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Teen pregnancy can impact adolescent mental health.

The teen pregnancy rate in the United States has dropped according to the Pew Research Center. Some experts believe this drop can be attributed to educational programs for teens that highlight the dangers of teen pregnancy. Others believe that better access to birth control is behind the drop. No matter the reason, there’s no denying that this is good news, as teen pregnancies can be devastating, for the teen, the parents and the child born to the teen.

This devastation is even more marked in pregnant teens who abuse drugs and alcohol, and addiction issues can make a teen pregnancy much more likely.

Parents wishing to protect their teens would be wise to learn more about the risks involved in teen pregnancy, and they might be wise to learn more about the role addiction plays in teen pregnancy risk. Armed with this knowledge, parents can help their teens combat their addiction issues, before a baby comes into the picture.

Consequences of Pregnancy

When people think of pregnancies and newborn babies, they might think of tiny booties, drool-filled smiles and the tight bonds of family. While it’s true that planned pregnancies, and the babies that come from them, can be a blessing, pregnancies in teens can bring heartache as well as joy.

For example, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that nearly one-third of teen girls who drop out of school do so because they’re pregnant or raising children. Furthermore, only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school, the Campaign reports, and less than 2 percent of teen mothers finish college by age 30. Having a baby, and raising that child, is an incredibly time-consuming process, leaving teens without the extra hours to spend at school or buried in their studies. These teen mothers expend their energies on their children, and this could cost them opportunities down the line.

High School Drop Outs

In a study of the costs involved in dropping out of school, National Public Radio (NPR) found that a high school dropout will earn $200,000 less over a lifetime than a high school graduate. These dropouts will also earn $1 million less than college graduates over a lifetime. These financial losses could lock these mothers into a lifetime of poverty and they may develop unhealthy life habits as a result. NPR also found that dropouts were more likely than graduates to:

  • Commit crimes
  • Abuse drugs
  • Abuse alcohol
  • Commit suicide

Consequences for Children of Teen Mothers

As mentioned, teen mothers often live in poverty, meaning that the children they bear also live in poor circumstances. They may live in unsafe neighborhoods in which drug use and crime is common. Or, they may not have nutritious foods to eat on a regular basis. They may not have the ability to attend college when high school is complete. These children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are more likely to drop out of school themselves, and they’re more likely to give birth as teenagers. Children of teen mothers are also more likely to be incarcerated at some point during their adolescence, according to the CDC.

As these facts indicate, teen mothers tend to give birth to children who also become teen parents. It’s a cyclical situation, and both mothers and their children tend to struggle. Some families assist by taking over the parenting duties for their teens, raising their grandchildren and helping them move forward in life in a healthy and constructive way.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 5.7 million grandparents live with their grandchildren, and some 2.4 million grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren. For some families, this is an ideal situation, as the teen can move forward with life while the child is cared for by a trusted member of the family. This isn’t a situation all families can handle, however, as some families struggle with their own issues of poverty, and they simply cannot handle taking on responsibility for another small person.

In order to prevent these consequences from taking place, parents may look for risk factors they can eliminate in the lives of their teens. Supervising friends, educating the teen on birth control options and promoting abstinence are all excellent ways to begin, but parents might also consider watching their teens closely for signs of addiction. In teens, the link between addiction and pregnancy is strong and clear, and by treating an substance use issue, parents might be able to prevent a pregnancy from taking place.

Addiction is a pregnancy risk factor that’s much too large to ignore.

Statistics back up this anecdotal evidence of the link between addiction and pregnancy. For example, a study in the journal Demography found that the risk of teen pregnancy was nearly four times as high in teens who had used illicit drugs, when compared to the risk for teens who did not abuse substances. Teens with addictions tend to make poor decisions concerning their future, and pregnancy can often follow. Parents can help by addressing their child’s addiction issue through enrolling that child in an treatment program.

Addiction During Pregnancy

Teens who become pregnant due to addiction might continue to abuse drugs during their pregnancies. Drugs can cause chemical changes in the brain that can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to overcome without professional help. Even though teens might want to stop abusing drugs, they may find that they’re simply unable to do so, even though they may know that the drugs they abuse are impacting their babies as well. This strong pull of addiction may explain why so many teen pregnant women continue to use drugs during their pregnancies. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, among pregnant women ages 15 to 44, younger women reported the greatest amount of drug use. These teens don’t seem able to stop abusing the drugs they crave, and this could impact the health of their unborn babies.

Drugs of abuse can cause significant health problems for unborn babies.

The March of Dimes reports that prenatal exposure to:

  • Marijuana can cause slow fetal growth
  • Methamphetamine can cause low birthweight
  • Ecstasy may cause heart defects
  • Heroin may cause premature birth, and babies may experience drug withdrawal when born
  • Cocaine may cause premature birth or low birthweight

Pregnant teens can go through rehab for drug abuse. In fact, teens who do so may be able to prevent some of this damage from taking place. These women shouldn’t stop taking drugs on their own without medical supervision, however. As addictions move forward, the body becomes accustomed to easy access to the drugs of abuse. If women stop taking drugs abruptly, they may miscarry or they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, as might their babies. Instead, it’s best for pregnant women to enter a medical program for addiction. Here, they can receive the medical supervision they’ll need to move through the process safely.

Help for Parents

Discovering that a child is pregnant can be devastating for parents. Some feel as though they should have done more to protect their children, while others are worried about the extra responsibilities they’ll be asked to handle when the child is born. These feeling are all common, although they can be distressing and difficult to overcome. Some parents find that participating in counseling sessions helps them to come to grips with the feelings they have, and they might be better able to help their children as a result. Some families also find it beneficial to participate in family therapy.

Here, the entire group can come together and discuss the pregnancy, and they can work through the emotions that this event has pulled up. Parents of teens with drug addictions might also benefit from family therapy. Here, the group can learn more about the nature of addiction, and they can come up with techniques they can use to stop the addiction from progressing. Teens who are recovering from an addiction need a significant amount of support from their families, and in family therapy, the parents can learn more about how to provide the help the teen will so desperately need in order to improve.

Working With Us

At Newport Academy, we specialize in empowering teens to make healthier decisions. Our treatment centers provide gender-specific care for teens, and we use therapies that have a proven track record. If you’d like more information, please contact us today. We are here for you.

Image courtesy of Jake Melara for Unsplash.