Teen Pregnancy in the United States Essay

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Teen Pregnancy in the United States: How it Impacts Maternity Nurses

Teen pregnancy is one of the United States' most significant public health problems. This is because, when compared to other similarly industrialized nations with similar health care systems, the United States has an embarrassingly high Teen Pregnancy rate. In fact, if judged solely by the teen pregnancy rate, one would assume that the United States was a non-industrialized, borderline third-world country, instead of the world's most significant superpower. However, teenage pregnancy remains the norm in many countries, which can lead people to wonder why teenage pregnancy is considered such a significant issue. After all, if teenage pregnancy is the worldwide norm, how can it be considered so negative in the United States? Does an anti-teen pregnancy attitude reflect an age bias and have more to do with concerns about emerging female sexuality than it does about actual consequences of teenage pregnancy? The risks associated with teenage pregnancy argue against that conclusion. Instead, they suggest that teen pregnancy is detrimental, not only for teenage mothers, but also for their babies.

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Teen pregnancy is unequivocally negative for the vast majority of teenage mothers. Teen mothers are not only less likely to complete school, but also more likely to be single parents. The combination of these events makes it unlikely that they will be able to adequately provide for themselves or for their children. Moreover, while adolescent female bodies may be capable of procreation that does not mean that they are ideal for procreation. "Common medical problems among adolescent mothers include poor weight gain, pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and cephalopelvic disproportion. Later in life, adolescent mothers tend to be at greater risk for obesity and hypertension than women who were not teenagers when they had their first child" (Cape Fear Teen Health Council, 2006). When one views this evidence, it is impossible to conclude that teenage pregnancy is good for teenage mothers, as a whole.

TOPIC: Essay on Teen Pregnancy in the United States: How Assignment

Furthermore, teenage pregnancy can have serious negative consequences for the child. Teenage mothers are far less likely to get adequate prenatal care than older mothers, and this can have a detrimental impact on the baby. Combined with the other health issues that frequently co-exist in teenage mothers, the outlook for the child can be very negative. "Children born to teen mothers suffer from higher rates of low birth weight and related health problems. Low birth weight raises the probabilities of infant death, blindness, deafness, chronic respiratory problems, mental retardation, mental illness, and cerebral palsy" (Cape Fear Teen Health Council, 2006). Moreover, these problems do not end at birth. Due to lack of maternal resources, the children of teenage mothers often suffer lifelong consequences, including, but not limited to insufficient health care, inadequate parenting, child abuse, and neglect (Cape Fear Teen Health Council, 2006). These problems do not remain in the home either; "children of teens are 50% more likely to repeat a grade; they perform much worse on standardized tests; and ultimately they are less likely to complete high school than if their mothers had delayed childbearing"(Cape Fear Teen Health Council, 2006).

Moreover, all of society is impacted by teenage pregnancy. Every child that grows up in an inadequate home increases the risk of the burden on society. This is a particular problem in the United States, which has teen pregnancy rates that are far in excess of any other industrialized nation. U.S. teen pregnancy rates are "nearly double Great Britain's, at least four times those of France and Germany, and more than ten times that of Japan" (Cape Fear Teen Health Council, 2006). The result is that a huge amount of U.S. resources must be diverted to dealing with the impact of teen pregnancy, which places us in a weakened position when compared to competitor nations. Teen pregnancy literally costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year, and, given the cyclical nature of the problem, creates an enduring legacy of problems. "There are nearly half a million children born to teen mothers each year. Most of these mothers are unmarried, and many will end up poor and on welfare. Each year the federal government alone spends about $7 billion to help families that began with a teenage birth" (Cape Fear Teen Health Council).

Teen pregnancy rates

When examining the problem of teen pregnancy in the United States, it is critical to realize that the problem varies tremendously from state to state. In 2006, 750,000 women under the age of 20 became pregnant (Guttmacher, 2010). The pregnancy rate among 15 to 19-year-olds was 71.5 per 1000 (Guttmacher, 2010). Of course, these numbers do not reflect those under 15 who experienced pregnancy. Moreover, while there had been a downward trend in the U.S. teen pregnancy rate, with it reaching its lowest point of 69.5 pregnancies per 1000 teens in 2005, it increased in 2006 for the first time in more than a decade (Guttmacher, 2010).

One of the interesting things about teen pregnancy rates is that they are not related to teen sexual activity in the way one would imagine. In other words, the more sexually active a teenager is does not mean that teenager has an increased risk of becoming a teenage mother. In contrast, "the pregnancy rate among sexually experienced teenagers (those who had ever had intercourse) was 152.8 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15 -- 19, reflecting the fact that the overall teenage pregnancy rate includes a substantial proportion of young people who are not sexually active" (Guttmacher, 2010). However, while this may reflect the historic success of birth control usage in sexually active teenage mothers, there is alarming news; the three percent increase in teenage pregnancies in the period from 2005 and 2006 was correlated with the same increase in teenage pregnancies among sexually experienced teenagers (Guttmacher, 2010).

Teenage pregnancies do not always results in teenage parents. There are three main options for a pregnant teenager: raising the child, adoption, and abortion. All three options receive some consideration, though abortion and keeping the child are highly favored over adoption. In 2006, the teenage birthrate "was 41.9 births per 1,000 women. This was 32% lower than the peak rate of 61.8, reached in 1991, but 4% higher than in 2005" (Guttmacher, 2010). In 2006, the teenage abortion rate was 19.3 abortions per 1,000 women, which is half of the 1988 peak, but 1% higher than the 2005 rate (Guttmacher, 2010). If 71.5 in 1000 teenagers were pregnant and 19.3 received abortions, then that is an abortion rate greater than 25%. However, it is critical to note that teenage abortion has declined significantly over the past two decades. "From 1986 to 2006, the proportion of teenage pregnancies ending in abortion declined almost one-third, from 46% to 32% of pregnancies among 15-19-year-olds" (Guttmacher, 2010). This news could be both good and bad, depending on one's personal position on the abortion issue, but it has not led to a significant increase in adoptions. On the contrary, "there is an unmistakable and dramatic trend away from teenagers giving their children up for adoption" (Lachance, 2011). Combine that with the overall decrease in teen abortions, and the result is an increase in the number of teenagers parenting, even if there has been an overall decline in teen pregnancy rates over the last two decades.

Like most things in the United States, one sees racial and ethnic differences in teen pregnancy rates, as well. However, while minorities, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics have historically been far more likely to experience teen pregnancy than whites, the race gap does appear to be getting smaller. "Among black women aged 15 -- 19, the nationwide pregnancy rate fell by 45% (from 223.8 per 1,000 to 122.7) between 1990 and 2005, before increasing to 126.3 in 2006" (Guttmacher, 2010). "Among Hispanic teenagers (of any race), the pregnancy rate decreased by 26% (from 169.7 per 1,000 to 124.9) between 1992 and 2005, before rising to 126.6 in 2006" (Guttmacher, 2010). However, there are still dramatic racial differences in teenage pregnancy; "among non-Hispanic white teenagers, the pregnancy rate declined 50% in the same period (from 86.6 per 1,000 to 43.3), before increasing to 44.0 in 2006" (Guttmacher, 2010).

In addition to race or ethnicity, geographic location seemed to have an impact on teenage pregnancy rates, probably because community attitudes about teenage sexuality, birth control, and sex education vary widely across the United States. Every state except experienced declines in their teen pregnancy rates from 1988 to 2000, and every state but North Dakota experienced declines in those rates from 2000 to 2005 (Guttmacher, 2010). Generally, states with the greatest numbers of teenagers had the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies (Guttmacher, 2010). However, teenage pregnancy rates were much greater in the south and southwest than in the northeast and Midwest. For example, "New Mexico had the highest teenage pregnancy rate (93 per 1,000), followed by Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Mississippi. The lowest rates were in New Hampshire (33), Vermont, Maine, Minnesota and North Dakota" (Guttmacher, 2010). Generally… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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