17 and Pregnant: A Guide for Teens and Parents

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Teen pregnancy or adolescent pregnancy refers to teens around 15 to 19 years old who are pregnant. So, if you are 17 and pregnant, that counts as teenage pregnancy. Refer to this article to learn what you need to know and what you should do in terms of teen pregnancy.

Being-17-and-Pregnant-What-Should-I-Do
Being 17 and pregnant can burden you physically, emotionally, and makes you worried about the future.

The phenomenon of early pregnancy turns out to be the reason for the deaths of many female adolescents in the world. Pregnant teenage girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to mature women above 20 years old.

According to the CDC, there were 194,377 babies born to teenagers in 2017. This statistic is going down due to more sexually active teenagers are aware of birth control.

These days, teenagers are abstaining from sexual activity compared to in previous years.

However, teen pregnancy in the United States remains substantially higher than in other western nations. It also varies according to ethnicity.

Teen Pregnancy Statistic According to Ethnics
Teenage pregnancy rate in the U.S. by ethnicity 2014

If you are 17 years old and pregnant, recognize the risk of teen pregnancy below.

Guide for Teens Who Are 17 and Pregnant

This section will discuss teen pregnancy and aim to educate teenagers who are 17 and pregnant. If you are a parent of a pregnant teen, you may also read this part, or skip to the section for parents.

Facts and Statistics About Teen Pregnancy

17 and Pregnant, Teenage Pregnancy Infographic
17 and Pregnant, Teenage Pregnancy Infographic

Social and Economic Risk of Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy and childbirth come with both short and long-term risks for you and your child.

  • You may have a lower chance of graduating from high school
    Teen pregnancy contributes to a significant number of high school dropout rates among teen girls. Only 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma when they turn 22.
  • Your child may face more difficulties in life
    Your children may have lower school achievement and drop out of high school, tend to have health problems, and face unemployment as a young adult.

17 and Pregnant: The Health Risk of Teen Pregnancy

Getting pregnant and giving birth when you are under 18 years old is much riskier. This is in comparison to those who are pregnant at the age of 20-30 years. Some risks due to a teen pregnancy are:

#1. Lower maternal and infant mortality

Around the world, especially in developing countries, there are about 50,000 teenage girls aged 15-19 years who die each year during pregnancy or during childbirth. 

About one million babies born to teenage girls also die before they reach one year of age. 

Babies of a mother who gives birth under the age of 18 are 60% more likely to die before the babies reach the age of one.

The younger you are as a teen mother, the greater the risks you and your baby will face at childbirth.

It is because your body is generally not ready for labor, partly because your pelvis is narrow.

How to prevent: Visit your OBGYN to get diagnosed early and identify any risks that could happen. Your healthcare providers may offer Caesarean-section delivery, which requires some preparations.

An early visit to doctors means you will have a greater chance to survive the pregnancy and childbirth with a healthy baby on your side.

#2. Risk of abnormalities in babies

Pregnant teens who receive little to no support from their family or partner, are at high risk of not receiving adequate care during pregnancy. This may affect your condition as a pregnant mother to your child.

Pregnancy is an important period that is prone to complications. Inadequate nutritional needs can cause birth defects or abnormalities.

How to prevent: Eat a healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet. Get enough folic acid as early as possible after you know you are pregnant.

#3. High blood pressure and premature babies

Being 17 and pregnant means you are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure and preeclampsia than those who are pregnant at the age of 20 to 30. 

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This condition can also interfere with fetal development, causing complications such as premature babies.

Teens who conceive under the age of 18 are more at risk of giving birth to premature babies and experiencing complications. 

Babies who are born before 32 weeks will be exposed to the risk of respiratory problems, digestion, vision, and development problems.

How to prevent: Get a thorough medical check-up to recognize early signs of illness and risks of complications.

#4. Babies are born below normal weight

Women who become pregnant at a very young age are at high risk of giving birth to babies with very low body weight, less than 1.5 kg. 

This may be due to preterm birth or under 37 weeks of gestation. 

Babies who have low body weight will need special care to help them breathe after birth.

How to prevent: Due to its nature that underweight babies are premature, trust your healthcare provider and listen to their advice after childbirth.

#5. Depression

Teenage girls are more at risk for postpartum depression because they feel unprepared, especially if they do not receive support from their family or partners. 

You may experience prenatal depression or postpartum depression

Prenatal depression may prevent you to take proper care of your pregnancy, resulting in an unmaintained pregnancy, greater risks at childbirth, and deformity.

Postpartum depression may prevent you to properly take care of your baby after childbirth.

A teenage girl who experiences an unplanned pregnancy also often faces pressure from many parties in various forms. 

For example, the urge to opt for abortion, fear of judgment from society, or worry about the financial ability to care for the baby in the future.

How to prevent: Seek support from people you are most comfortable talking with. Communicate your pregnancy to your partner. Get help from psychologists when you are experiencing any symptoms of depression, anxiety, or experience difficulty sleeping.

Is it OK to be pregnant at 17?

If you are 17 years old and pregnant, the pregnancy can pose risks to you and your baby. Some complications that can increase the pregnancy risks to young mothers are:

  • Bleeding 
  • Risk of death
  • Undeveloped fetus or newborn death
  • Premature birth
  • Underweight newborn
  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Postpartum depression

Teen pregnancy in general has not only medical impacts on you but can also psychological impacts on your family and your baby.

However, with proper prenatal care and regular visit to healthcare providers, you may lower the risks above.

17 and Pregnant, Minimizing Risk for Childbirth

Even though the risk of conceiving and giving birth at a young age is very high, there are ways you can take to ensure safety and a healthy newborn.

If you’re 17 and pregnant, then these are steps you should do;

  • Perform routine checks at the OBGYN to minimize risks that can be prevented since the early stage of pregnancy.
  • Eat a well-nourished diet, take the supplements given by your doctor. Avoid stress.
  • Eat healthy foods. Especially pregnant supplements containing folic acid 0.4 mg per day for the development of the baby’s nervous system.
  • Refrain from drugs, alcohol, and smoking.
  • Seek support from your closest relatives and friends to prepare yourself mentally. 
  • Do not feel ashamed, doubtful, or afraid to participate in various counseling regarding sexual health and reproductive organs. 
  • Enrich yourself with various personal health and safety information regarding childbirth.
  • See a counselor or counseling group who can help you get information or make decisions about relationships, pregnancy, or adoption.
  • From the start, prepare yourself to be a parent through reading, articles, and parenting knowledge you can obtain both online and through seminars.
  • Visit mental healthcare providers if you feel any sign of prenatal depression such as;
    • Mood swings
    • Irritability
    • Sadness, hopelessness, or feeling overwhelmed
    • Frequent crying or crying easily
    • A lack of energy or motivation
    • Reduced or increased appetite
    • Sleep problems, either sleeping too much or too little
    • Difficulty focusing or making decisions
    • Memory problems
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
    • Withdrawing from friends and family
    • Headaches, body aches, pains, or stomach problems that seem different from morning sickness.

Guide for Parents of Pregnant Teens

When you just learned that your 17-year-old is pregnant and having a baby, you may be shocked, disappointed, and may worry about your daughter’s future and her baby’s.

You may also experience anger or guilt, knowing that you should have done more to protect your daughter. Some parents may be embarrassed knowing that their daughter is pregnant and worried about how people around them will react.

But at this time, your teen needs you more than ever.

Most teens who are in relationships and sexually active don’t intend to get pregnant. But when it happens, they are terrified.

Many teens keep the pregnancy to themselves and concealed it from their family in fear of disappointment and anger from their parents.

Some teens choose to handle things on their own and try to abort the baby while risking their health condition.

That’s why you need to step right in and as early as possible to prevent further damage to your daughter and her child. Get involved in the teen boy’s side of the family and discuss how you want to manage the problem.

Although some teen boys may accept the baby, many are frightened by the idea that they have to provide for the baby as fathers are legally responsible for child support in every state in the United States.

But you should not push them into an unwanted marriage. Refrain from pushing your opinion to them and communicate openly about what they want.

Your teen is already under great pressure from the pregnancy. Scolding or blaming her condition will not improve the situation. Instead, provide both physical and mental support for your teen and offer help in case they need help dealing with her pregnancy.

What You Should Do When Your Daughter Is 17 and Pregnant

  • Help her to get checked by an OBGYN to check for STDs and validate her pregnancy.
  • Help her to schedule prenatal visits.
  • Pay close attention to her behavior. Ask her how she feels physically and emotionally.
  • Explain what may happen to her as the due date is coming.
  • Explain how to deal with morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Ensure your daughter follows the doctor’s advice.
  • Help provide healthy food with enough folic acid, iron, and calcium.
  • Help her to get enough nutrients from lean meat, fish, egg whites, beans, tofu, milk and dairy products, spinach, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Help her to manage stress.
  • Assist her in prenatal classes and parenting classes.
  • Tell her how much support (financial and otherwise) you are willing and able to offer.
  • When possible, allow your daughter to finish school. It will create better opportunities for them as they will be able to get better jobs.
  • Prepare her to face reality where she is now a mother and responsible for her baby. Explain that her world will change and the baby will be the priority.

The Bottom Line

There is no one solution that fits all. Parents and pregnant teens need to have open communication and decide for themselves.

Knowing the risks of teen pregnancy may help you navigate the situation and direct where you want to go. Learn to identify what bothers you the most, write them down, and find solutions for each problem.

For example, if you are worried about financial support, discuss with the boy’s side of the family, and ask how much they are willing to offer.

If you are afraid of being a parent and thinking that you are not ready for it, remember that even adults are not always 100% ready to have a baby.

Being 17 and pregnant affects your future greatly, but people have proven that they can still live a great life with their children, without the option of abortion.

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Elise Schiller
Elise Schillerhttps://www.parenting-hub.com
Elise is the head writer in Parenting Hub. She focuses on early childhood parenting and teenage years. Currently, she also learns about parenting adult children. She enjoys writing and sharing insights regarding child development and mental health.

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