Even when a pregnancy is planned and much wanted, the responsibility of caring for a little life can be a daunting prospect for first time mothers, regardless of age.
For teenagers though, discovering a pregnancy can prompt a multitude of complex emotions and reactions.
Feelings commonly experienced by teens during this time are fear, shock, anxiety, anger guilt and denial.
These feelings might clash with opposing feelings of joy, excitement and love – resulting in confusion and stress.
Teen pregnancy doesn’t have to be a negative experience though, providing you seek support and guidance along the way. Pregnancy can be an enjoyable experience at any age.
Factors which contribute to pregnancies going well are good support, good information, and some planning.
It’s not always possible to anticipate exactly what a pregnancy will be like, but having realistic expectations is really helpful.
But whilst optimism is typically a helpful strategy when dealing with life, an overly optimistic viewpoint idealising parenthood and having a baby to love may not prepare the mother for when the reality of raising a baby hits home.
There are many issues particularly salient to teen pregnancies that are best addressed as soon as possible.
- Strategies for staying in school (some schools have special programs) – not completing education may lead to long term unemployment or job options that are poorly paid and insecure.
- Taking parenting classes to prepare for the babies arrival.
- Preparing to financially support herself and the child
For many teens, telling their parents can be one of the most overwhelming aspects to a pregnancy. Particularly if the teen anticipates a negative reaction from their parents.
While an honest conversation is necessary, it’s important to understand that parents are human too, and the news may come as something of a shock, so they may need some time to get used to the idea.
Common reactions by the parents of the soon-to-be mother may include:
- Initial shock or disbelief at the news.
- Possible emotions of distress, anger, fear.
- Loss of dreams for their own child
- Possible challenges to own beliefs or values
- Possible concerns of the reactions of others
Where possible the teen needs to think through their needs and communicate them to their parents.
Remember that you can’t control your parents’ reactions and if their initial response is not what you want or need, you may need to give it some time.
Most parents want to be supportive of their children, even if their news takes some getting used to.
Having the words ready to start the conversation can be helpful.
For example, you might say, “I have some news to tell you, I have found out that I am pregnant”, then wait for their reaction. You can also communicate what you are feeling, so you might say, ‘I know this news may be a shock to you, I was really scared when I found out’.”
Know that you may experience a range of emotions in telling them and it is ok if some of those emotions come out – for example if you cry.
How to cope
It’s important for pregnant teenagers to receive love, guidance and support, with opportunities to talk, gain well founded advice and make decisions.
The level of support offered to pregnant teens varies considerably from no to high support.
With less support, pregnant teens are more likely to become homeless.
Communication is the key.
Finding someone to talk to, gain support and advice from is crucial.
Talking to others can help us to unload some of our problems and move towards solutions, when possible.
Facing the challenges and getting help as early as possible may lower the risk of complications and it’s important to get prenatal care as soon as possible.
If you’re unsure where to start, seek support from a counsellor who can provide you with current information about your options.