Did you know that nearly 3 in 10 teen girls in the US will get pregnant at least once before age 20? That’s more than 700,000 teen pregnancies each year. Yikes.
So what does this mean for you? Well, you hear about teen pregnancy in movies, in the news, at school, on MTV, and from your parents. You know it’s not a good idea to have a baby before you’re ready, so why are so many teens still getting pregnant every year? And what can you do about it?
Babies are great—they’re cute and cuddly and they love you. But they’re also needy and selfish—they want all your time and attention and they want it NOW. Be honest—there are a million things you’d rather be doing than changing a diaper, right? So if you decide to have sex, have you considered the consequences of getting pregnant/ causing a pregnancy? Weirdly enough, almost 50% of teens have never thought about how a pregnancy would affect their lives even though having a baby could be one of the most life-changing things to happen to them. Consider this:
School comes second:
- Parenthood is the leading reason why teen girls drop out of school; after all, it’s really difficult to juggle homework and a baby. Less than half of teen mothers ever graduate from high school and fewer than 2% earn a college degree by age 30.
- Children of teen mothers do worse in school than those born to older parents—they are 50% more likely to repeat a grade, are less likely to complete high school than the children of older mothers, and have lower performance on standardized tests.
- About one-fourth of teen moms have a second child within 24 months of the first birth—which can further delay their ability to finish school or keep a job.
A baby won’t make him stay:
- You may think having a baby will make your relationship even stronger, but the fact is 8 out of 10 fathers don’t marry the mother of their child. It’s also true that these absent fathers pay less than $800 annually for child support, often because they are poor themselves and can’t afford legitimate support payments.
It’s hardest on the kids:
- More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager. In fact, two-thirds of families begun by a young, unmarried mother are poor.
- Children who live apart from their fathers are 5 times more likely to be poor than children with both parents at home.
- The daughters of young teen mothers are 3 times more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
- The sons of teen mothers are twice as likely to end up in prison.
Now you know why having a baby too early is a bad idea. So how do you prevent too early pregnancy?
Start by thinking it through carefully yourself. Are you ready to have sex? Are you going to wait? Though there are a variety of ways to avoid pregnancy, they can be boiled down to two basic strategies:
- Delay Sex: Not having sex at all is the only 100% effective method of preventing pregnancy and STIs.
- Use Condoms and Birth Control: If you do choose to have sex, you need to make sure that you use a condom correctly every single time you have sex. Condoms will protect against both STIs and pregnancy. If you want dual protection, there are many other types of birth control that will prevent pregnancy. Figure out which method is right for you.
Whether you choose to have sex or not, it is important to be able to talk about it with your partner. Having direct conversations about sex can be difficult or embarrassing, but if you are confident about your facts and able to express openly how you feel it should be easier. So take some time to get informed and to think through what feels right for you. It may be helpful to talk these decisions over with a close friend, parent, doctor, or other trusted adult before you talk to your partner. When you are clear about your own feelings, it will be easier to communicate them to someone else. And don’t wait until you’re in the heat of the moment to make these decisions—having a plan means being prepared before you’re in the moment.
So you think teen pregnancy is a problem? Want to do something about it? There are organizations in many communities devoted to preventing teen pregnancy—they are affiliated with churches, synagogues, schools, independent clubs, non-profit organizations, health centers, and reproductive health organizations. Contact your local school board, faith leaders, youth groups, and others who are concerned about young people. You can also talk to parents and teens and educate them about the consequences of unprotected sex and teen pregnancy. In fact, one of the most important things anyone can do is to make sure parents and teens talk about these issues and know the facts.
If you’re already a teen parent, all the stuff on this page might sound like it’s meant to hurt your feelings. We know that our message might unintentionally offend teen parents and we hope that you don’t take what we’re saying here the wrong way. While your experiences as a teen parent may be very positive, we know that the majority of teen moms and dads have an incredibly difficult road ahead for themselves and for their children. We are by no means trying to insult you as a teen parent or make you feel like you’ve made a bad choice, but are instead hoping to help all teens realize the consequences of having children too early.
We know that you love your family very much and are working hard to support them while still doing all those things that make being a teen fun. Best of luck to you and your family!
Adapted from StayTeen.org