52 Weeks to Health: Week 22, Teen Pregnancy

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May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

 The teen birth rate has been steadily falling for years, but it still remains the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized countries. About eighty-five percent of these pregnancies are unplanned, which in any population can increase the risk for problems. The biggest risk for teen mothers is delaying prenatal care or worse, about seven percent received no care at all.

The Rates of Teen Pregnancy/Appalachian Counties

In 2019, a total of 194,377 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years, for a birth rate of 18.8 per 1,000 women in this age group. This was another record low for U.S. teens and a drop of 7% from 2016.1 Birth rates fell 10% for women aged 15–17 years and 6% for women aged 18–19 years.2

In Kentucky, there were 3,361 babies born to women aged 15-19 years, for a birth rate of 24.1 per 1,000 women in this age group.  For Kentucky females aged 15 to 17 years (high school age), there were 766 babies born for a birth rate of 22.8 per 1,000 teens in this age group.

For teens in Kentucky’s Appalachia counties, the birth rate for females 15-19 is 32.1 per 1,000 women. Source: KY Vital Statistics *preliminary data.

Problems with Teen Pregnancy

 One of the many reasons that teen pregnancy is concerning is due to the issues that may arise, including the lack of prenatal care. The reason for lack of prenatal care is usually delayed pregnancy testing, denial or even fear of telling others about the pregnancy.

Because the body of a teen is still growing, she will need more nutritional support to meet both her needs and that of her baby. Nutritional counseling can be a large portion of prenatal care, usually done by a doctor or a midwife, sometimes a nutritionist. This counseling will usually include information about prenatal vitamins, folic acid, and the dos and don’ts of eating and drinking. Lack of proper nutrition can lead to problems like anemia (low iron), low weight gain, etc.

Another problem facing teen mothers is the risk of the fetus being exposed to drugs and alcohol, including cigarette smoking. No amount of any of these substances is safe for use in pregnancy, and can increase the likelihood of premature birth and other complications.

Premature birth and low birth weight can create harm to the baby in the form of brain damage, physical disabilities and more. Premature babies tend to have lengthy hospital stays and increased risk of health problems which is an increased stress on a teen mother.

Problems for Pregnant and Parenting Teen Mothers

 There are many programs in place to help teen parents learn parenting skills, complete their education, particularly high school, and find meaningful employment or further training and education with the idea of obtaining a better job. The truth is a teen parent will need more support and perhaps time to complete these tasks. Having good childcare that empowers the teen parent rather than forces the teen to abdicate to the paid care provider is a must. Only about half of the females who become pregnant will complete their high school education by the time that they are twenty-two, compared to about ninety percent of the females in that age group who do not become pregnant.

There is also the worry that after one pregnancy, another may follow. Discussing teen pregnancy can be really important, particularly in terms of subsequent pregnancies. That said, being open and accepting of teens who talk to you in the most important thing you can do.

Positive Teen Pregnancy Outcomes

 All Lake Cumberland Health Department clinics provide low or no cost family planning services to young women to include counseling, education, physical examination, pregnancy testing and birth control options. We also provide pregnancy options counseling and community referrals

At LCDHD, we provide a free HANDS program at each county in our District.  HANDS is program designed to help new parents become the best parents they can be.  Our specially trained staff meet with parents to go over pregnancy, child development, parenting skills, and any other questions during pregnancy through their child’s first 2 years. https://www.lcdhd.org/services/parenting/hands/

Another resource is WIC which provides supplemental food assistance to eligible pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding women, and children up to age 5.  https://www.lcdhd.org/services/parenting/wic/

On a separate note, it is important to point out that Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in our nation.  A few healthy lifestyle choices could change this. First, eating normally proportioned helpings of nutritious foods including at least five fruits and vegetables a day can lower weight and reduce heart disease and diabetes. Second, exercising about 30 minutes per day can lower blood pressure. Third, avoiding the use of tobacco products can reduce several types of cancer. Finally, making sure you get your needed preventive screenings can detect diseases early and greatly increase your chances for a positive health outcomes, while receiving your recommended vaccinations can prevent acquiring disease in the first place.

Source: https://www.verywell.com/facts-about-teen-pregnancy-2760041


Press Release: Week 22 –Week-22-May-is-National-Teen-Pregnancy-Prevention-Month