Teen Pregnancy

Article Categories: Patient Care & Pregnancy and Reproduction

Pregnant teens are often high-risk patients. Medical Assistants may encounter them in various specialty practices as the adolescents progress through pregnancy. As a healthcare professional, friends and family may also come to you, seeking information. You don’t need to know much about obstetrics to listen and then encourage them to see their provider or visit a local clinic.

While the number of 15-19 year-old girls who become pregnant is has dropped 50% since the peak year of 1990, there are still approximately 700,000 teen pregnancies every year. Here are some facts about teen pregnancies:

• Without birth control, a sexually active teen has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.

• 3 in 10 teens will become pregnant before they are 20 years old.

• About 25% of teen moms will have another baby within two years.

• The pregnancy rate for Black and Hispanic teen girls is over 2.5 times that of white teen girls.

What are the health risks for teens and their unborn babies?

• Lack of prenatal care is dangerous for both mother and baby, especially if the teen is hiding her pregnancy or if her family is not supportive.

• Inadequate nutrition, including prenatal vitamins, before getting pregnant. Since most teen pregnancies are unplanned, diets may be deficient in folic acid, which can prevent neural tube defects.

• Pregnancy-related hypertension and pre-eclampsia (high protein levels in the urine and fluid retention) are more common in teens.

• Premature delivery, earlier than 37 weeks gestation.

• Low birth-weight babies can have underdeveloped organs, including the brain and lungs, increasing the risk of brain hemorrhage and respiratory distress.

Most adolescents are not aware of HIPAA and state privacy laws. Many states allow teens to be tested and receive treatment for STDs, substance abuse, and mental health issues without parental consent. Most states also agree that a girl can also seek prenatal care without notifying her parents. The rationale behind this is that without guaranteed confidentiality, many teens would not seek help. Parents are not excluded from information, but providers have discretion regarding notification. While it’s usually best to encourage parental involvement, many minors can consent for themselves. Check with your state to find out more about consent laws.

Wherever you encounter pregnant teens--in the clinic or in the community--use your medical credibility and expertise to stress the need for early and regular prenatal care. Your encouragement and support can make all the difference for both the teen and her future child.

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