Once a girl attains puberty and her ovulatory cycles start, she becomes capable of getting pregnant and bearing a child. But in case of human beings, a teenage pregnancy does not remain a simple biological fact.
A teenager getting pregnant initiates a string of physical, mental, social and financial problems.
Most adolescents become sexually active before they are 18 or even 19 years. This happens globally, though for different reasons. In underdeveloped countries, where education and careers are considered only for boys, girls are married early in adolescence or early teens.
In the developed western world, sexual permissiveness, drug addictions, e.t.c. factors are responsible for many teenagers indulging in sex, regardless of the consequences. Statistics show that about one million teenage girls face pregnancy each year in the United States.
At times, innocent gullible teenagers are exploited sexually by male friends or relatives and become pregnant.
Whatever may be the reason, teenage pregnancy is a health issue, which is a cause for concern.
Teenage is the age of growth of the body physically. Thus the nutritional needs of a young girl are increased. Failing to meet the demands of the body for increased nutrition, poses a risk for developing anemia and softening of the bones, resulting in body pains.
Now if an adolescent girl becomes pregnant, there is additional demand for nutrition for the growing fetus also. The competition for nutrition between mother and baby may expose both to risk of malnutrition.
This may not happen due to poverty alone. A young well off teenager, may be fond of taking junk food only or may be on a dieting spree. These conditions will further deprive the body of essential calories and nutrients. Result, is higher prevalence of iron deficiency anemia among pregnant teenagers.
Those who smoke or drink with friends, put their unborn babies to the hazard of being underdeveloped with physical and mental abnormalities.
Due to mental immaturity and lack of experience, a pregnant teenager usually does not understand the need for regular antenatal check up. Thus she may miss getting valuable counseling, check -up and necessary injections, like for prevention of neonatal tetanus.
Maternal illness is more common with teenage pregnancies. Rates of pre-eclampsia (a sickness of pregnancy), are much higher in teenage pregnancies than with older women. Prolonged labour is also more common with teenagers due to physical immaturity.
Due to these multiple factors, pre term births, still births and low birth weight babies are more commonly born to teenage mothers. Many of these infants suffer from physical problems, need extensive special care, failing to meet which, they die soon.
Those infants who survive may not get adequate physical care as needed, because of the mental immaturity of the mother.
Thus teenage pregnancy becomes a problem for the entire community. It augments maternal, fetal and infant mortality, leads to young women suffering from chronic anemia and health related problems.
Teenage pregnancy has its social hazards also. A teenage girl is not proficient enough to take up the responsibility of a child. Mostly these children are born out of wedlock and the father shrugs off the responsibility. In case of married couples as in teenage marriages, the father himself is physically and mentally incompetent of looking after a child.
The children born, unless cared for by other well meaning relatives grow up to be physically and mentally weak.
Considering these risks, society has to discourage teenage pregnancies. Linking morality with sex and putting restrictions on premarital sex helps in a big way to avoid this. Because then except for very daring persons, adolescent girls and boys will avoid sex. Keeping them busy in their leisure time is also a suitable alternative.
People at community levels should be sensitized about this issue so that they do not marry their girls before 21 years, i.e. the legal age of marriage.
If at all a teenager becomes pregnant, she should be counseled about the need for intake of adequate amount of nutritious food, avoiding alcohol and other substances which can harm the fetus.
She should be motivated to attend prenatal clinics and become mentally prepared for the forthcoming baby. Thus a healthy mother and child can be ensured.