While every pregnancy can pose certain health risks to both mother and baby, health risks with teen pregnancy are even higher. Possible causes of health risks in teen pregnancy can range from the underdevelopment of the mother's body to social and economic causes, such as a lack of prenatal care and poor eating habits. Regardless, most health risks associated with teen pregnancy are preventable through proper medical care and pregnancy education for young mothers. Below are the top five health issues commonly seen in teen pregnancies.
Inadequate Prenatal Care
Prenatal care is crucial during pregnancy, but teens are much less likely than their adult counterparts to seek and maintain prenatal care throughout the pregnancy. Whether due to an attempt to hide the pregnancy from family and friends, a lack of financial ability to pay for prenatal care or simply not understanding the importance of care, teens who do not receive adequate prenatal care throughout pregnancy put both themselves and their babies at risk. According to the American Medical Association, infants born to mothers who did not receive prenatal care are four times more likely to die before reaching their first birthday. Other potentially dangerous complications, such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, may go unnoticed and untreated without adequate prenatal care, putting both mom and baby at risk.
Teen mothers are more likely to give birth to babies with low birthweights, in part due to a lack of prenatal care. Teens are also more likely to maintain a poor diet and not take prenatal vitamins, as well as continue to smoke and consume alcohol during pregnancy, all of which may explain the epidemic of low birthweights among babies born to teen mothers. Low-birthweight babies are at a higher risk of infant mortality, as well as several other serious health conditions, such as respiratory distress syndrome, brain bleeds and intestinal problems.
Pregnancy puts a lot of stress on the body, and the cardiovascular systems of teenagers are often not developed enough to handle the extra stress, putting teens at higher risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension. This type of hypertension can prevent the fetus from getting adequate blood flow, leading to birth defects and other health complications, and can cause serious health risks for the mother, as well. Pregnancy-induced hypertension is easily managed with proper prenatal care and medications.
Similar to pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia can be brought on by the increased demands of pregnancy on a teen mother’s still-developing body. Anemia occurs when the iron levels in the blood are low, and can be caused by poor diet combined with an increased blood volume to sustain the pregnancy. Anemia during pregnancy can cause several complications, both before and after birth, including postpartum depression, low birth weight and passing anemia onto the baby. Anemia is easily treated through proper diet and iron supplements, as well as regular prenatal check-ups to monitor iron levels in the blood.
Common complications related to teen pregnancy, such as hypertension and anemia, can also lead to premature birth. In fact, some studies show that teen mothers are as much as 93 percent more likely to give birth prematurely than their adult counterparts. Premature birth, especially in babies born before 37 weeks gestation, are at an increased risk of developmental defects of the brain and heart, and have an increased chance of dying from sudden infant death syndrome. As with most complications associated with teen pregnancies, getting adequate prenatal care throughout the pregnancy can greatly reduce the risk of premature birth.