Health is an important issue amongst teenagers who are parenting. Teenage pregnancy itself is a challenge as any girl of that age lacks the skills and maturity needed to handle pregnancy and mother hood. The girl herself at this age is having ongoing medical and behavioural issues. So it is not surprising that pregnancy at this early age is an invitation to complications, both short term and long term.
Research highlights that pregnant teenagers are less likely to seek antenatal care and usually present to the doctor towards the last days of the pregnancy.
Moreover since the periods are likely to be irregular during teens (missed periods) pregnancy may be detected very late. It may be too late for seeking abortion and one may have to carry an unwanted pregnancy.
Common Issues in Pregnancy:
The pregnant teenagers are more likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies (iron/ calcium and vitamin) as a result of poor eating habits, food faddism, attempts at dieting, skipping of meals , inclination towards fast food -which are all very peculiar features at this age. Iron deficiency and anemia is very common in the teens in a country like India , which may be aggravated by the demands of pregnancy.
Lack of awareness about taking folic acid prenatally and seeking medical help early in pregnancy can lead to malformations in the baby like spine and head defects.
High blood pressure or preeclampsia is a dangerous medical condition which may also be associated with proteins in urine with swelling of the body. When severe it may lead to organ damage and fits and thus be life threatening.
Obstructed labour and Genital fistula may occur due to her bony passage for delivery not being adequate and labour being prolonged and delivery being tried at home or untrained personnel.
Higher Maternal mortality (deaths during delivery).More chances of excessive bleeding during delivery. This may require prolonged hospitalisation.
Dropout from school /college/giving up a career– Pursue of higher education and building up a career may be put to hold due to child bearing. The girl may become busy in the rearing of her child.
Emotional crises: A teenager may suffer an emotional crisis if the pregnancy is unplanned and unwanted leading to attempts at abortion and its consequences as she is not physically and mentally mature .Fluctuating hormones of pregnancy may also prompt depression. Rarely the depression may lead to attempts at suicide also. Post partum depression is more common at this age.
Alcohol and substance abuse – Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse is very common in the society especially amongst teenagers of bigger cities and a girl may not have the will power to stop these at this age. These in turn harm both the mother and the baby as well lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Risk for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV is higher amongest teenagers .
Complications in the Baby
Babies born out of teenagers are more likely to be premature or low birth weight. Later in life they are more likely to suffer from developmental, emotional problems , chronic medical problems and lower IQ later in the life all due to neglect and improper bringing up.
Once the baby is born the girl may not prove to be an adequate mother and become overburdened with the constants needs of the baby. She herself being in the growing age may feel annoyed at her lack of freedom once the baby is born. All these may lead to neglect of the baby.