Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kids Having Kids

     Generally, teen birth rates are down. But, in Washington County, it’s a different story. The county’s teen birth rate is 35% higher than Maryland’s average of 24.7%.

Medical risks
Teen pregnancies carry extra health risks to mother and baby: teenagers often don’t receive timely pre-natal care, many experience post-partum depression and run a higher risk for pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure), anemia, premature birth and low-birth weight. “Whether they’re in denial or trying to hide the pregnancy from their parents, teens often see a doctor later in the pregnancy, which can cause health problems for mom and her unborn baby,” explains Laura Henderson, M.D. with Meritus Health’s School Based Wellness Center.

Social reality
The pregnant teen, her partner and parents may go through a range of emotions from shock, fear and denial to isolation, embarrassment and anxiety. All of these emotions are for a good reason: the futures of young parents are drastically changed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parenthood is the leading cause of teen girls dropping out of school—and nearly 1 in 5 births to teens aged 15–19 are repeat births. When pregnant teens drop out of school, they lose the opportunity to learn skills needed for employment and self-survival skills as a parent.

To make matters worse, babies born to teenagers are at risk for neglect and abuse because their young parents don’t understand their roles and may be frustrated by the constant demands of raising a child. Often, the responsibility of being a primary care giver sets in for the teen-aged-mother and the father assumes the weight of ongoing child support.

Can we talk?
As bleak as the picture of teenage pregnancy may sound, it can be avoided. Prevention, like any health condition, is key. Parents can effectively teach their daughters and sons the truth about sex and the consequences it brings.

According to Psychology Today, teenagers want more information about sex than they are getting, and they would prefer to learn about sex from their parents. While it’s no doubt a difficult discussion, the less a tween or teen knows about sex, the more misled they can become.

Here’s how you can help prevent teenage pregnancy:
  • Be clear with your child about your sexual values and views.
  • Talk to your child early and often about sex and love.
  • Supervise and monitor your child’s activities.
  • Know what your kids are watching, reading and listening to.
  • Know your children’s friends and parents.
  • Be wary of teen relationships when there’s a significant age difference. 
  • Encourage activities that strengthen your child’s bond with family, school and community.
  • Emphasize the importance of education and academic achievement.
  • Educate your child on the ways to prevent pregnancy, whether it’s responsible use of birth control or delaying sex entirely.

In short, start the conversation, because avoiding teenage pregnancy is important to the health and future of all. For more information on teen pregnancy prevention, go to www.cdc.gov/TeenPregnancy/Parents.htm

By: Anne Gill

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