Teen Pregnancy-What can a girl do?

Picture of a pregnant teen.

"I WAS 15 and pregnant,” said Ann. “I didn't know what to do—get an abortion, put the baby up for adoption, or what.” Ann was just one of the millions of teenage girls in who got pregnant that year."

But, why do teenagers really get pregnant?

Some teenage girls imagine that a pregnancy will rescue them from an unhappy home life or solidify a relationship with a boyfriend.

Others see a baby as a status symbol or as something of their own to hold and to love.

The stark reality of single parenthood, however, soon dispels such fanciful notions. An teen mother is forced to make tough, often agonizing, choices.

Should she get married? Should she put the child up for adoption? Is abortion the answer?

More often than not, it is the girl (perhaps with her parents’ help) who is left to make those tough choices.

This because driven by fear—or selfish indifference—most teen boys who have fathered a child out of wedlock try to evade their responsibilities entirely.

One boy whose girlfriend became pregnant boosts: “I just told her, ‘See ya’ ’round.’”

Fortunately, there are some boys who seem to want at least some involvement with their offspring

Whatever the case, what can a girl do about her teenage pregnancy?

What she decides will have a lasting effect on the physical, emotional well-being of her and the child she carries. Let us consider some of her options.

Should l get married?

Many might feel that marrying the father of the child would be the perfect solution.

Granted, it takes two to make a baby, and by all rights the father of the child should carry his load of responsibility.

After all, it would spare the girl and her family public embarrassment, and it would allow for the child to be raised by two parents.

This can indeed work for few cases. But marriage is not a cure-all.

Furthermore, rushing into marriage could actually compound the girl’s problems.

Since the boy and the girl are fairly young, they simply may not have the emotional maturity needed to make a marriage work.

Dr. Arthur Elster observes:

Premature parenthood frequently causes these fathers to drop out of school, and so places them at a considerable vocational disadvantage.” 

The ensuing economic difficulties can destroy a marriage.

Indeed, some studies claim a divorce rate of from 50 percent to 75 percent among marriages precipitated by a premarital pregnancy!

Marriage is a serious step and should not be rushed into.

After giving the matter consideration, all concerned may agree that marriage would be unwise, that the girl would fare better raising the child at home with the assistance of her family than in a problem-ridden marriage.

This does not necessarily mean leaving the young father out of the picture entirely. As the young child gets older, he may want to know his biological father.

Or it may be that the young father or his parents feel some moral obligation to have a relationship with the child or to provide some financial support.

In fact in some lands, the courts have granted unmarried biological fathers legal rights similar to those of married fathers.

Maintaining a civil relationship with the unmarried father and his family may therefore avert a bitter custody battle.

Is abortion the answer?

One young girl said: ‘I want to do so much with my life, and a baby wouldn't fit in.’ Abortion is thus the choice millions of girls each year.

But is it right or even just to abort a child’s life because it doesn't ‘fit in’ with one’s personal plans?

The book Growing Into Love offers an argument against abortion:

Although the consequences of conception are simplified by having an abortion, the experience of terminating a pregnancy is usually very upsetting and disturbing. . . . A teenager . . . may believe that the fetus is just that—a fetus . . . But no amount of legalistic explanations let her forget, deep within herself, that the fetus she conceived had a potential for life.”

The fact that almost all women who undergo an abortion suffer thereafter from severe psychological disturbances is often kept hidden from the public, claims Professor P. Petersen of the Hannover, Germany, gynecological hospital. 

After effects include:

severe feelings of guilt; depression; apathy or irritability; hatred for partner, doctor, or for men in general; frigidity; [and] terrible nightmares."

Therefore, it would be wise to think about this consequences before contemplating abortion as it might be a decision that will haunt you all your life.

Should I put my baby up for adoption?

Some unwed mothers choose to give up their baby for adoption. They often feel like Heather, a girl quoted in Seventeen magazine, who said:

I have enough trouble handling myself sometimes, let alone a little baby. I'm really crazy about kids, and I love babies, but I knew that I couldn't give this baby the best.”

It is true that giving a child up for adoption is better than ending his life by abortion.

And admittedly, the prospect of raising an infant by herself may seem overwhelming to a young and inexperienced girl.

As one unwed mother says:

You take on a big, big responsibility that’s very lonely and trying and that requires a lot of sacrifice.”

Remember, though, that a parents responsibility to ‘provide for his or her own. In most circumstances, it would be best for the girl to raise the child herself.

Ann, mentioned at the outset, therefore made a wise choice—though not the easiest. “I decided to keep the baby,” she says. “My parents helped me and still do.” 

Granted, being a single mother is tough. But it is not impossible, and many young mothers become competent parents.

Adoptive parents might be able to provide better materially. But remember, too, that while a single parent may not be able to give her child the best materially, she can give him something far more important: love.

Should I leave home?

If one’s parents are agreeable, there may be real advantages to staying at home rather than trying to venture out on one’s own.

Living at home is usually less expensive. Furthermore, the familiar surroundings of home may offer a sense of safety and security.

Staying at home may also make it easier for a girl to continue her schooling.

By graduating from secondary school, a girl greatly improves her chances of escaping a life of poverty.

Of course, having three generations share a home can create stress and strain for everyone concerned.

The single mother may have to deal with cramped living quarters. Parents and siblings may have to get used to having their sleep interrupted by a baby’s cry.

The family routine may be disrupted. Yes, if all concerned display unselfish love and consideration, friction within the family can be minimized.

Problems will also arise if the young mother tries to evade carrying her own load of responsibility and expects the grandmother to do all the work.

Or it may be that the well-intentioned grandmother virtually commandeers the care of her grandchild. Notes the book Facing Teenage Pregnancy:

Grandparents who raise the child of an unwed daughter as if it were their own may add to family conflict and role confusion.”

While a grandparent’s help and support is invaluable, the responsibility of child rearing is best handled by a parent.

Open communication and cooperation can therefore do much to prevent misunderstandings.

What if the girl’s parents refuse to help out or simply cannot afford to allow her to continue living with them?

In lands where public assistance is provided, an unwed mother may have little choice but to take advantage of it—at least initially.

However, this will mean living on a very strict budget. “It seems my biggest problem is money,” says 17-year-old Sharon. “I can buy food and diapers, but that’s it.”

In time it may be possible to work an outside job. Trying to juggle motherhood and work will not be easy, but others have managed to do it. So do not give up.

Of course, much needless suffering can be prevented if one avoids the premarital sex in the first place.

But if a girl has erred in this regard, she need not conclude that her life is over.

By acting wisely, she can avoid compounding her error and make the very best of her situation.