According to the World Health Organization, about 16 million girls of childbearing age (15-19 years old) give birth every year, comprising about 11% of births all over the world (WHO). Of these, 95% come from developing countries, while half of the number comes from countries such as Brazil, India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and the United States (Mangiaterra et al., 2). The same study reveals that a bigger problem is the number of young girls in developing countries who become mothers at the age of 16, "with the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa and South-Central and South-Eastern Asia" (Mangiaterra et al. 2).
Why is teen pregnancy a huge problem? The first major reason is how pregnancy is a delicate condition especially for adolescents. With bodies that are yet to develop, adolescents are physically not ready to undertake mental, emotional, and physical changes related to pregnancy. Both the young mother's health and the baby's are at risk. With less knowledge about their body and pregnancy itself, these teenagers could experience miscarriage, pre-term baby deaths, and stillbirths, among others, without the support and guidance of the family (Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. 1). They may also develop medical conditions such as "obesity, anemia, malaria, STIs, mental illness, unsafe abortion complications, and obstetric fistula" (Mangiaterra et al. 3). For the children of teenage mothers, they are more likely born with low birth weight and experience health and developmental problems (Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. 1). In addition, research reveals that young girls who bear children while aged 10-15 years old have 55% greater risk of neonatal deaths as compared with adolescents who give birth at 16-17 years old (19% risk) and 18-19 year olds (6% risk), respectively (Mangiaterra et al. 3).
Secondly, it creates an individual social and economic impact on the part of the young mother. Underage girls who find themselves pregnant opt for abortion without realizing the ill effects and health risks associated with abortion. Apart from this, teenage moms often drop out of school and do not have plans of coming back to finish high school. Thus, a huge number them face uncertain futures. This situation contributes to the teen, unmarried mom experiencing financial difficulties and instability (Filipic) instead of sharing the financial burden with the other parent. At the same time, it also costs American taxpayers about $9 billion annually as support for teen pregnancy in terms of "healthcare and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and loss of revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers" (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 2). According to research, teenage moms who choose to complete their high school education do so upon reaching the age of 22. It also reveals that the teen pregnancy population that pursues this path is only 50% of the total population. The same study reveals that having teenage parents with low educational levels results to children fairing miserably at school as well (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 2).
Thirdly, teenage pregnancy has societal effects on teenage moms as well. Society is not as forgiving when it comes to adolescents getting pregnant at a young age considering the morals and values that guide it in general. Regardless of the reasons for adolescents becoming pregnant, including dating violence, childhood environment, and the family's economic situation, girls often carry the burden of judgment and character assassination (Chowdhury).
Because of these reasons, preventing occurrences of teenage pregnancy is crucial to ensure that girls lead a full and successful life. The United States alone needs to come up with solutions that would help curb the rise in teenage pregnancy rate. Society as a whole, including the family and educational institutions, must also be vigilant in finding answers that will make adolescents aware of the problem and would-be problems that young parents will encounter in the face of the teenage pregnancy problem. According to Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), "initiatives should incorporate responsible, medically accurate sexuality education and information in the schools and in the media, improvements in funding for and access to family planning services, and youth developme6nt programs to improve the life options of impoverished teens" (PPFA 1).
Some sectors agree that teaching sex education in schools helps in preventing teenage pregnancy. The consensus is that sex education must be taught in all levels and must consider the appropriateness of sexual topics according to the students' thinking capacity (PPFA 2). Providing information about sexual diseases such as HIV and STDs paints a clear picture why young adults must delay engaging in sexual intercourse at a young age. In addition, educating them about sexual abstinence, use of condoms and contraception, and moral values will also help adolescents make informed decisions about teenage pregnancy (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 3).
However, the family must share the responsibility of educating the youth as well. According to studies, majority of Americans support the inclusion of sex education in educational curriculum as long as information are shared and processed with medical accuracy. Americans believe that teaching their children about sexual relationships, sexual preferences, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion and health, and the use of condoms can drastically reduce and prevent teenage pregnancy (PPFA 2).
America also believes that the media plays a huge role in disseminating information about sexual behavior that can send strong messages to the youth, thus, media is highly encouraged to take measures in campaigning about the consequences of adolescents' sexual behavior (PPFA 4).
In conclusion, preventing teenage pregnancy is everyone's responsibility and cannot be appointed to just any one sector of society. Thus, when the youth understands the consequences of their actions, the more they will withhold engaging in sexual relationships. If they understand that their actions will result to possible long-term financial, social, and economic issues, then that would be the beginning of the reduction in teenage pregnancy population.
Chowdhury, Arka Roy. "Society and Teenage Pregnancy." Only My Health. Web. 22 April 2013. .
Filipic, Martha. "Youth Pregnancy & Public Assistance." The Ohio State University Extension – Family and Consumer Sciences. n.d. Web. 19 April 2013. .
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [CDC]. "Preventing Teen Pregnancy 2010-2015." PDF. 20 April 2013. .
Mangiaterra, V., Pendse, R., McClure, K., &Rosen, J. "Adolescent Pregnancy." MSP Notes 1.1 (2008): 1-4. Web. 19 April 2013. .
Planned Parenthood Federation of America [PPFA]. "Reducing Teenage Pregnancy." Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (2008). Web. 20 April 2012. .
World Health Organization [WHO]. "Adolescent Pregnancy." World Health Organization – Media Center. 2012. Web. 19 April 2013. .