Sixteen & Pregnant

The Truth Behind Teen Pregnancy in America

 

*Names have been changed to protect individuals’ identity.

 

Her face is not one you can immediately pick out of a crowded room.  Her face has many shapes, many colors- she is Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian, and so on.  She may be a high-school athlete, on the honor roll, or even president of student council.  Or, she may be the nice girl who sits next to you in homeroom.  But she is a part of a group of girls in America (about 34 percent) that will give birth this year, before reaching age twenty.  The truth is, she is just like you, except that she is pregnant.

Rebecca’s Story

Her whole life changed the moment she found out.  Just a month into her junior year in high school Rebecca*, 16, found out that she was pregnant.  The news brought an array of emotions.  She knew she had to tell her boyfriend, whom she had been with for about a year and who she knew would be supportive.  But, she was really worried about telling her parents.  “With my mom it was really easy to tell her because she got pregnant with my sister and me when she was young.  My dad I was kind of worried about, but he didn’t take it as bad as I thought.  He didn’t like my boyfriend at first, but after I had [my daughter] he was more supportive,” she said.   

That was all about nine months ago, but the real challenge started only three weeks ago with the arrival of her daughter.  Now 17-years-old and entering her senior year, Rebecca* does not have time for the things she used to enjoy.  “I used to like to hang out with my friends a lot and listen to music and water ski,” she said.  “I can’t really go out and do what I want.  I have to stay home.  It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.”

The hardest part for her, though, was being one of the only pregnant girls at school.  “When I was pregnant at school it was hard because a lot of people stared at me,” she said.  But that hasn’t deterred her from continuing school and receiving her high school diploma.  She takes two classes every other day online so that she can graduate on time.  And her boyfriend has a full-time job in order to provide for their new family.  She said that her dad and her boyfriend’s mom have been very generous in helping take care of the baby.

Talk About It

Like many girls who get pregnant at a young age, Rebecca’s* parents did not talk openly to her about the consequences of having sex.  “Studies show that kids who feel they can talk with their parents about sex -- because their moms and dads speak openly and listen carefully to them -- are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior as teens than kids who do not feel they can talk with their parents about the subject,” says Talking With Kids About Tough Issues, a national initiative by Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation which encourages parents to talk with their children earlier and more often about tough issues like sex, HIV/AIDS, violence, alcohol, and drug abuse.

Also, according to Planned Parenthood, Inc., “children born to teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to be unemployed and to become teenage parents themselves than those born to women who delay childbearing.”

You Are Not Alone

Rebecca’s circumstance is certainly not an isolated case. Across the country, two teens were going through a similar situation.  In March, the Albuquerque Journal in Albuquerque, New Mexico interviewed two teens who are both young mothers.  Eva*, 15, was a student at a school for parenting and pregnant teens.  "It's just that everybody's having sex - or almost everybody," she said in the interview with the Journal. "Just within my freshman year [in high school] I knew of at least 10 pregnant girls." 

Maria*, 17, who was a student at the same school, said she became sexually active at 15 but dated the baby’s father for three years before becoming sexually active with him.

Both girls said their mothers were pregnant teens.

Currently, about fifty-one percent of Hispanic teens in the U.S. become pregnant before the age of twenty.  This staggering statistic is the reason why many adults are reaching out to America’s youth in order to prevent these statistics from rising. 

Organizations such as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP) and Planned Parenthood are putting forward initiatives to reduce the teen pregnancy rate.  NCPTP is especially dedicated to the cause with the goal to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy by one-third between 2006 and 2015.

In the meantime, Rebecca* faces the challenge of balancing school and raising her new daughter.  Raised in the church she is determined to pass on the values she was taught as a young child.  “I want to raise her in the church and I want her to have a good education,” she said.  She concluded by saying that if she knew she would get pregnant she would have made different decisions nine months ago.  “But then I wouldn’t have her, so I can’t regret it,” she said.

 

Sidebars:

1) 7 Signs of Pregnancy

  • A missed period (if your periods are usually regular).
  • A short, scant period.
  • Sore, tender or swollen breasts.
  • You feel sick to your stomach, or you are vomiting.
  • Fatigue - feeling more tired than usual.
  • You need to urinate more often than usual.
  • Mood swings

 

2) If you think you are pregnant there are many people willing to listen and help.  Talk to a family member, your guidance counselor, or any adult you trust.  Here are some numbers you can call for more information or to talk to someone about your pregnancy.

 

Planned Parenthood, Inc.: 1-800-230-PLAN (will help you find a confidential test in your area of the U.S.) Also visit them at www.plannedparenthood.org

 

America's Pregnancy Helpline: 1-888-4-OPTIONS (provides counseling and information regarding pregnancy options)

 

Pregnant & Young Hotline (Birthright)
1-800 550-4900