Teenage Pregnancy in Australia
An unplanned pregnancy can be stressful for any woman, but particularly so if you are still a teenager.
While teenage pregnancy is less common now than it was even 10 years ago, according to the 2011 census, 13,041 females aged 15 to 19 stated that they had had a child; this equates to 1.9 per cent of the female population in this age group.
Pregnancy rates are higher among teenagers whose lives include:
• family situations with regular conflict between members
• family violence or sexual abuse during childhood
• unstable housing arrangements
• living in out of home care
• poor school performance and attendance
• low socio-economic background
• family history of pregnancies at a young age
• low level of maternal education
• low self-esteem
• undisclosed same-sex attraction
• Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status
• living in rural and remote areas
• having a mental health diagnosis
Pregnant teens do have special needs, but first of all, let’s look at the similarities between adult women and teenagers.
• Are physically able to conceive, nourish, and give birth to a child.
• Accept the fact of pregnancy, in varying degrees of enthusiasm or reluctance.
• Are able to prepare mentally and emotionally for the birth only after reaching acceptance of the pregnancy.
• May have fears or concerns of the unknown, and of their ability to cope with their situation.
• Benefit from childbirth preparation and labour support given by caring, accepting individuals.
• Want to know about their options and make informed decisions.
• May challenge authority, or may feel vulnerable in a medical environment.
• Deserve respect and education which will build their confidence in their bodies to give birth and their abilities to become a caring mother.
The pregnant teen differs from most older pregnant women in that she:
• Has fewer life experiences from which to draw
• Is still growing herself, while a baby is growing within her.
• Alternates between adult and childlike behaviour while learning self-control.
• Might not be able to complete her education, possibly leading to long-term unemployment or job options that are poorly paid and insecure
• May be dependent on welfare or on a poorly paid job, putting the young woman under more financial pressure, often leading to poor housing arrangements and not being able to afford basic necessities
• Is more likely to experience a lack of acceptance, support and understanding from family members and friends
• Is at greater risk of maternal mental health issues, such as postnatal depression, most likely due to a lack of support, isolation from friends and family members, or financial pressures.
Clearly, the challenges for the young pregnant mum are many and it is essential that she knows that she has access to caring and supportive professional help that will enable her to make the best decision for her.
Some of these challenges include:
• Dealing with her parents’ reactions to the pregnancy
• Working with the baby’s father to address his role and responsibilities
• Attending school with peers who can’t relate to her situation
• Deciding whether or not to keep the baby, or consider abortion or adoption
• Making decision about her healthcare
Deciding what to do when faced with an unintended or unplanned pregnancy can be a confusing and anxious time for a teenager. She will most likely need support from a number of people such as her boyfriend or partner, friends and parents, as well as nursing and medical staff and counsellors.
Where to get help and advice
The Better Health Channel
Raising Children Network
Parentline (there are helplines in each State and Territory)
Family Planning Victoria
Pregnancy, Birth & Baby
Help and advice is also available through your GP and local hospital.
Tanya Strusberg is currently the only Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) in Australia and teaches prenatal education to pregnant women and their partners in Melbourne. She is passionate about inspiring, educating and empowering women to feel confident about their body’s ability to give birth naturally and without unnecessary medical intervention. Tanya and her husband Doron have two beautiful children, Liev and Amalia.
To learn more visit www.birthwellbirthright.com
More article on Pregnancy at Mums Lounge: