The teenage years are hard enough as is, but the added stress of an unexpected pregnancy during this time can cause an even greater strain on family dynamics and friendships. Although this unanticipated scenario may be difficult to navigate, the good news is that there are many ways to support a pregnant adolescent, whether she is a close friend, a daughter, a sister, or any other kind of loved one.
Make a decision
The first stage of supporting a teen through pregnancy typically involves making a decision: How will she decide to handle this major responsibility? Fortunately, there have never been more options or resources available to young mothers, so she has the freedom to make her own choice. Whether your loved one decides to keep the baby, give it up for adoption, or end the pregnancy, the most important thing is that she feels supported in her decision. She might not know what the “right” choice is, but rarely are there ever such decisions in life. If the teenager tells you she feels uncertain or hesitant to go through with a given action, be willing to discuss it with her, even if you disagree. If you want to offer your help by mentioning alternative courses of action, be sure to do so in a way that is low-pressure. Most importantly, try to only broach the subject when she is in a level-headed mental state and can rationally separate her behavior from her emotions.
Encourage prenatal care
If the teenager decides to keep the child, it is crucial she understands how it might impact her health and wellness. According to the Mayo Clinic, teenage mothers are at increased risk for a number of health conditions during pregnancy. These problems include, but are not limited to:
- High blood pressure
- Low birth weight
- Postpartum depression
In order to help your loved one through this tough time, remind her that she needs to take the best possible care of herself, so she can ensure her baby arrives safely and in good health. She may try to argue about taking prenatal vitamins, eating a balanced diet, or exercising, but try to remember that her defensiveness is not a reflection of your well-intended efforts and may be due to emotional strife she is personally undergoing. Support is not about changing another person’s behavior, but giving them the advice, feedback, and encouragement they need to make that change on their own. Advise her to avoid substances that may cause birth defects like alcohol or cigarettes; give her feedback when she discloses her fears or feelings; and encourage her to attend childbirth classes by offering to go with her. You know she would say and do the same for you.
Take proactive measures
Preparing for the future is important in any pregnancy, but it’s even more vital when dealing with a teenager’s upcoming birth. Teenage mothers encounter difficulties not just during their pregnancy but afterwards as well. This is demonstrated by a number of unsettling facts and figures. For one, teen mothers are less likely to finish high school, compromising their education and future career prospects. In many cases, young mothers have to live on a tight budget and may even fall below the poverty line. If your loved one chooses to carry the child to term, it’s essential she understand these risks and potential sacrifices.
When a teenager becomes pregnant, the news can affect those around her just as much as it affects the mother herself. No matter how difficult things get, though, remember that the best way to support a teen mother is to remind her that you are there. When she knows she is not alone, she will feel strong enough to handle whatever tomorrow may bring.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a decision regarding teenage pregnancy, reach out to AIM Adoption to talk to someone who understands. Our professionals are trained and experienced in dealing with pregnancies and adoptions in young mothers. We are here to give support and compassion that can be so very necessary during this stressful time.