Teenage pregnancy means a pregnancy in females under the age of 20. Teenagers are still growing, and their bodies are not yet ready to have babies. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for teenage girls globally. Babies born to young mothers are also at higher risk of complications than babies born to older mothers.
RISKS FOR MOTHERS
There are several medical conditions that younger mothers are at higher risk for. One of these is called pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia can lead to organ failure, strokes, seizures and giving birth too early. Pre-eclampsia is characterized by the onset of high blood pressure and loss of protein through urine. Another condition younger mothers are more likely to have than older mothers is an obstetric fistula. This is a hole between a woman’s vagina and her bladder or her rectum. This hole develops during a long period of obstructed labour when the pressure of the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvis cuts off blood supply to the tissue in the region. Such a hole results in women not being able to hold in pee or faeces. Obstructed labour is more common in younger women because their birth canals tend to be smaller.
RISKS FOR BABIES
Being born to a younger mother is also more dangerous to the baby. Teenagers are more likely to go into labour prematurely, meaning that they deliver the baby before it is fully developed and would usually have been born. Being born prematurely can have negative effects on the baby’s development, making it more likely to have infections and respiratory diseases such as bronchitis later in life. Babies born to younger mothers are also at higher risk of being born with a low birth weight. Since teenage mothers are still growing themselves, they cannot provide as many nutrients to their babies as mothers who are fully grown.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE THESE RISKS
The best way to reduce these risks is to have babies when you are older. If you do become pregnant before your 20s, it is important that you eat enough food as well as lots of fruits and vegetables to get enough nutrients. Going to a doctor for regular check-ups during pregnancy can help you make sure that you and your baby are developing healthily. To avoid complications during birth, it can help to have your baby in a hospital or have a trained health worker nearby to help if the labour becomes complicated.