There have been many talks about the show on MTV called 16 and Pregnant, and whether or not it glorifies teen pregnancy. There are great arguments on each side of the fence for this show and I believe it will tie in well with this article. So, what do teens need to understand about an unplanned pregnancy? Let’s start with the basics, and then we’ll go into some common myths.
A baby is not a bargaining tool used to keep a partner in a relationship. A baby is a living and breathing human being that goes beyond anything that might be happening in your life at that exact moment in time. A baby is a decision that you will have to raise and care for monetarily, emotionally, physically, and mentally for the rest of your life if you choose to parent. There are lifelong consequences to a baby. That isn’t a negative truth, but it is reality.
Teens also need to understand that if you find yourself in an unplanned pregnancy and you decide to parent, that means you are tied to that birth father for the rest of your life, literally. Let that sink in for a moment. Imagine the person that you are sexually active with right now; could you imagine being tied to them for the rest of your life, having to make serious life decisions with them, having to share your baby with them for all major holidays for the rest of your life? Do your life goals, religions, and principles all align, or could you see that being a sense of tension? Do you think you would parent the same way and help support one another or would you be on separate pages? These are all incredibly important things to think about, hopefully before you find yourself in an unplanned pregnancy but if you are already pregnant then these types of questions could help you decide whether you should parent or possibly look at adoption.
An unplanned pregnancy can also have huge rippling effects on your parents and other immediate family members such as siblings that live with you. How is your relationship with your parents now? An unplanned pregnancy as a teen can cause a strain as your family works to navigate this new and unforeseen obstacle. Each family is different and unique in how they would handle an unplanned pregnancy. Some families have the money and ability to step in and help you raise your baby and other families cannot afford to do that or are not willing to do that. There can be a significant dynamic shift when a new baby comes into the family and you are a teen mom. One of the problems can be the grandparents becoming more like the parents to the child. Is that a role you want them to play?
Maintaining friendships as a teenager can be a bit of a challenge. Can you imagine throwing in teen pregnancy? What do you think would happen to those friendships? How do you think your friends would react? What if you were to parent and what if you were to chose adoption?
I became pregnant at 16 and one of the things that was super tough for me was that I didn’t expect how uncomfortable it would be to hang out with my friends because of all the stares I would get and the uncomfortable questions. I also had a hard time keeping up with my friends because they really enjoyed going hiking and camping and I was no longer able to do those things, putting a strain on our friendships. No one wanted to hang back with the pregnant chick. It was also hard because none of my friends understood what I was going through and could relate, especially with the added newness of choosing adoption. None of my friends had ever experienced anything like that, so no one knew what to say or how to act. It was incredibly awkward for everyone, even after I delivered and placed the baby, there was an adjustment period with my friends.
Risks of an Unplanned Pregnancy
Pregnancies, even when you are older and married, can take a toll on your body, but teen pregnancies come with their own added risks for the baby and the mother. According to the US National Library of Medicine, teen pregnancies are at a higher risk of low birth rate and can cause higher blood pressure for the mother. These are just a few of the potential concerns that can accompany teen pregnancies. These risks are generally due to the fact that teen moms do not always seek pre-natal care right away as older more prepared moms do. Teen moms are also not as prepared mentally and emotionally for what is happening to their bodies.
Common Unplanned Pregnancy Myths
Now that we’ve talked a bit about what doe happen in a teen pregnancy, let’s turn our attention to common misconceptions.
Will this keep my boyfriend around?
Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy while being a teen is extremely stressful enough, now try adding in a romantic relationship and the strain that accompanies it. It can often be too much. Adding romance to an unplanned pregnancy that requires you to make adult life decisions when you, in fact, aren’t even one yourself is incredibly difficult. Many couples that get pregnant at a young age do not stay together. Never look at a baby as a bargaining tool to keep someone around or to entrap you. The long-lasting consequences will be severe for everyone involved, including yourself.
Will an unplanned pregnancy ruin my life?
No, a baby will not ruin your life. It will put some serious obstacles in your way and make things that were once already hard, even more difficult, but you can do it! You can still graduate high school and go on to college and obtain your dream job, but a baby just might adjust your timeline. You will have a lot of late study hours and crying sessions—trust me, I’ve been there! Having a great support system is key and that support system can be friends and family or even fellow moms you’ve met.
One of the most uplifting stories I’ve seen was a post of a photo from a college classroom and the mom could not find a babysitter for her young child, but she did not want to miss class. So, she brought her young child with her and when the young baby started to fuss, instead of the college professor getting frustrated and cranky and kicking the young mom out, the professor went and got the baby and held the baby for the rest of the class! How amazing and uplifting is that? It was an extraordinary display of character, support, love, and encouragement to the young mother. Quitting happens all too often of teen moms, many don’t make it to college or end up dropping out due to the struggles, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This was a powerful testament.
Will I get my own show and become famous like MTV’S 16 and Pregnant show?
The chances of this happening are slim to none. There have been talks over the years of groups of friends making pacts with each other about getting pregnant at the same time seek fame. I promise you, this is not your shot at fame. Which actually goes directly against what the women on the show 16 and Pregnant stand for. They stand for safer sex and no unplanned pregnancies.
Teens need to understand that an unplanned pregnancy is also 100% avoidable, through the means of abstinence. Chances can also be lowered through several means of birth control that are now available to both men and women. The best way to protect yourself from an unplanned pregnancy is to begin with having an open and honest conversation with your parents about sex and what each of your expectations are. Even more importantly, talk to your partner about birth control if you chose to become sexually active.
I will never forget a piece of advice that my health class teacher in ninth grade used to tell all of us. It still makes me laugh because had I followed it, I probably would not have become pregnant at 16. She told us that if we were thinking about becoming sexually active, to get undressed with our partner in an extremely well-lit room and sit on metal chairs in front of one another for five minutes. Everything out in the open, literally, and just talk, and if at the end of that five minutes you still wanted to have sex then so be it. We were all mortified and should have listened. What she was really trying to teach us was to slow down, think, and listen to one another, because the chances are that you are not ready for sex.
Statistics of Teen Unplanned Pregnancy
These statistics were provided by an article written in Mom Junction. Some of these may appear discouraging, but if you are set on your decision, do not let them scare you. In the end, you will always have a choice.
- Roughly 750,000 teens get pregnant each year
- More than half of all teen moms don’t graduate high school
- 8 out of 10 teen dad’s do not marry the mother of their child
- Most relationships won’t last until the baby’s first birthday
- 80% of teens become single moms
Costs of an Unplanned Pregnancy
So, how much do babies really cost to raise? To answer that question, first, let’s think about how long you will be financially responsible for your child. You will have to care for them from birth to at least the age of 18— or even through college if you’re feeling extra giving.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it can cost six figures to raise one single child, anywhere between $193,020, at its lowest, to $264,090. Whew! If you were to break that down into monthly costs, it comes out to anywhere between $893.00 to $1,222 and that is just if it is evenly spaced out. To me, babies are way more expensive since you have to buy diapers, formula, and daycare costs. These are all things you either need to think about or prepare yourself for in an unplanned pregnancy if you were to chose to parent. Parenting is not cheap or easy! It is a lifelong commitment.
Final Thoughts on Unplanned Pregnancy
Just remember, an unplanned pregnancy can happen to anyone. There is no demographic that makes you safer than others. Money cannot save you. A better school cannot save you or having two parents in the home as opposed to someone who grew up in a single-family home. None of this matters when it comes to an unplanned pregnancy, it can happen to anyone. The only way to protect yourself is to be educated, prepared, open, and honest with yourself, your parents, and your significant other.
If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, I know it can seem like an overwhelming hurdle, but I promise you, your life is not over and your goals can still be attained. Albeit maybe slower and on a different timeline than you had planned, but it is possible and there are other options out there besides just parenting, such as adoption. Do not give up hope!
Katie Urban is a birth mom of 18 years. She is a proud military spouse and mother of two teenagers. Katie loves the adventures of moving all over the country every couple of years and seeing what the new place has in store for her and her family. She loves to binge watch Law and Order SVU and is working on her bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security. Katie also loves to refinish furniture in her spare time and spending time with her two lap dogs, Bailey (Great Dane) and Benson (Teacup Yorkie).