Pregnancy Risks in Teenagers

Teenage pregnancy has become an increasingly common condition in today's society. While many people first think of the social and educational difficulties a teenage pregnancy will cause for the mother, many people don't think about the health risks for the involved mother and her growing baby. Here are a few examples of ways that the baby and mother may be at risk over the course of the teen's pregnancy:

The Baby's Health Risks

The health of a growing fetus relies heavily upon the woman carrying it. Baby's born to teenage women are at greater risks for health complications than babies born to adults.

One serious health risk is low birth weight. Up to 9% of teenagers carrying babies will have babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds. These babies are vulnerable to a variety of health conditions.

As a result of their low birth rate, many of these babies are underdeveloped. They may be born with organs and organ systems that have not yet reached full maturity to survive outside of the womb. This may cause lung conditions, such as respiratory distress syndrome or damage to the brain.

As a result of the reduced development to the brain at birth, many babies born with low birth date are at risk for brain bleeds resulting in brain damage or cognitive impairments later in life. 

Babies born prematurely at low birth rates are also at risk for abnormal blood sugar levels and body temperatures as a result of their under-developed organ systems.

As a result of their under-developed systems putting them at higher risk for complications, babies with low birth rates are more likely to die. In fact, the rate of death is 40x higher in underweight babies than in babies who are born at a normal weight.

The Mother's Health Risks

In addition to health concerns for the baby, there are also several concerns associated with the mother's health, both emotionally and physically. The younger the mother at her baby's birth, the greater chance she has for health complications. 

Many teenagers who are pregnant do not get the prenatal care that they and the baby need. As a result, pregnant teens suffer from higher rates of undernourishment, anemia, high blood pressure, difficulties with the placenta, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. 

Teenage moms also tend to suffer from premature labor or more difficult deliveries. Those who have HIV or STIs may pass along health complications to their newborn. Often teenage pregnancies result in an abortion due to health risks of the young mom.

For those under the age of 15, the rate of death from pregnancy related complications is much higher than for older teens and women. As a general rule, the younger the girl, the more risk for complications and death.

Teenagers who are pregnant also encounter more mental health conditions such as shame, guilt, stress and depression both during their pregnancy and after the birth of their baby.

Social and Educational Consequences

Along with the health concerns for babies and their teenage moms, there are also several social and educational challenges that the mom and her child will face both during the pregnancy and after the baby's birth.

Due to the difficulties with pregnancy and caring for a baby after birth, around 2/3 of pregnant teenagers will drop out of school. A teens decision to stay in school may rely heavily on the help and attitude of parents, peers and the school. Without proper care for the baby, the mom may be forced to stay at home with no other alternative.

Along with these educational consequences, many teen moms also begin to face social isolation and abandonment. Parents may have different viewpoints and levels of involvement in raising a child. Teenage girls often miss out on important parts of their childhood, like school events and friend get-togethers, due to being pregnant and raising a child. Pregnant teenagers also aren't able to drink, smoke or use drugs as a result of carrying a baby.

Finally, young moms also lack much of the life experience and skills it requires to raise a child well. Because of their young age, they may not understand safety measures that need to be taken with an infant or understand how to care for their newborn baby. They may not understand appropriate parenting skills needed to raise a healthy child. 


Teenage pregnancies are difficult on both the mom and the baby. Young girls who become pregnant have increased risk for pregnancy complications and even death. In addition to this, the baby is at a higher risk for being born with a lower birth rate. This lower birth rate may result in underdeveloped organs and organ systems, leading to lung and brain conditions. Teenage girls who become pregnant also encounter educational and social difficulties, as they adjust to living life with a child by their side.

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