How to Deal With Unplanned Teenage Pregnancy
Not sure how to deal with an unplanned teenage pregnancy? You’re not alone.
Finding out that you’re unexpectedly pregnant is always scary, but it’s even more overwhelming when you’re a teenager. You may be struggling to deal with your feelings, or to understand what to do next.
Here’s what to do if you’re not sure how to deal with unwanted teenage pregnancy:
Step 1: Find support. Talk to a trusted adult or counselor. This could be a parent, an older sibling, a teacher, a medical professional, or a friend’s parent. You should never have to face unplanned pregnancy in adolescence on your own!
Knowing that someone is there to support you, no matter what you decide to do, is an important first step.
Step 2: Make sure you’re taking care of your own mental and physical health. Visit a doctor as soon as possible! They can talk to you about your pregnancy options, answer questions you might have and make sure you’re in good physical health. They can also help if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression as a result of this pregnancy.
Immediately avoid anything that could harm your health (and the health of the pregnancy) like alcohol, smoking and vaping, or drugs.
Step 3: Decide which of the three pregnancy options is right for you. This is probably the hardest choice you’ve ever had to make, but it’s something you need to decide as soon as possible before your options become limited.
Take some time to learn about your pregnancy options and reflect on what you want your future to look like. Again: There is no right or wrong choice; there’s only the choice that’s right for you! This is something that nobody but you can decide.
We’ll talk more about those options and try to answer some of the questions you may have below.
Understanding the Options Available for Teenage Pregnancy
Many people don’t understand their unplanned teenage pregnancy options. They may also harbor some myths or concerns about their options for unplanned pregnancy in high school, or they may not be sure how to access their adolescent pregnancy options.
Below is a brief overview of the three options for a pregnant teenage girl:
- This is the most expensive of the three options.
- Education and career goals will need to be delayed or permanently changed.
- This is a good option for teenagers who are excited and feel ready to become a parent.
- This is a good option for teenagers who have access to financial, emotional, physical and practical help from their family in raising a child.
- This is not a good option for teenagers who wish to wait to become a parent until they feel more prepared (or who don’t want to be parents at all). Better options for them may be abortion or adoption.
- Learn more about parenting as a teenager here.
- This is the second-most costly of the three options, but insurance and grants can sometimes help with the cost of abortion, which will range in price depending on a number of factors.
- The pursuit of education and career goals can be resumed as soon as the teenager is recovered.
- Some states require parental/guardian permission for a minor to receive an abortion.
- This is a good option for teenagers who do not feel able or ready to carry a pregnancy to term or give birth.
- This is only an option for teenagers who are still early in their pregnancy.
- This is not a good option for teenagers who feel morally uncomfortable with abortion. Better options for them may be adoption or parenting.
- Learn more about receiving an abortion as a teenager here.
- This is the least costly of the three options — adoption is free for pregnant teens.
- The pursuit of education and career goals can be resumed as soon as the teenager is recovered.
- A minor does not need parental/guardian permission to place a baby for adoption, but they do need to give their legal consent to a licensed adoption professional in accordance with their state’s adoption consent laws.
- This is a good option for teenagers who want to help a family who is ready and excited to raise a child.
- This is a good option for teenagers who wish to be able to have a relationship with their child and the adoptive family in the years to come through an open adoption, but aren’t yet ready to be a parent themselves.
- This is a good option for teenagers who feel morally uncomfortable with abortion, but are not ready or able to raise a child.
- This is not a good option for teenagers who do not feel able or ready to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth. A better option for them may be abortion.
- Learn more about choosing adoption as a teenager here.
10 Questions You Have About Unplanned Teenage Pregnancy
There are a lot of questions that people ask about unintended teenage pregnancy, from needing unplanned teenage pregnancy advice to curiosity about unwanted teenage pregnancy statistics. Here are ten common questions about unintended teenage pregnancy in the United States, and some key unplanned teenage pregnancy facts that may help you better understand adolescent unintended pregnancy:
1. “What are the options for a pregnant teenager?”
Any time someone is pregnant, even if they’re facing an unwanted teenage pregnancy, they have three teen pregnancy options to choose from:
- Raising this child themselves
- Aborting the pregnancy
- Placing the baby for adoption
For some, the path that’s right for them is clear. Others may be unsure. Take some time to learn more about each of the options to help determine which one is right for you.
Remember: Only you can decide what’s best in your situation. There’s no right or wrong choice. There’s only the choice that’s right for you.
2. “I’m 16 and pregnant. What are my options?”
If you’re under the age of 18 and pregnant, you might be worried that your legal status as a minor could affect your access to all three options, or that you may “get in trouble.” However, no matter what age you are, you still always have three choices available to you: Parenting, abortion or adoption.
A couple things about parental permission for minors regarding abortion and adoption:
- In most states, you’ll need the consent of a parent to choose abortion.
- Many states will allow a teenager to make an adoption plan without her parents’ permission. In the states that do require a minor to have her parent’s permission, “minor” usually applies only if you’re under the age of 13 or 14. So, if you’re older than 14, you’ll likely be able to pursue adoption without legal consent from your parents.
But no matter which of the three options you choose, you’ll never get into legal trouble for being a minor and pregnant.
3. “How many teenage pregnancies are unplanned?”
Although not all teen pregnancies are unplanned, most are. In 1987, 82% of the pregnancies experienced by teenagers aged 15–19 were self-described as unintended.
Studies show that teens are taking steps to avoid pregnancy. In 2013, the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate reached its lowest level, declining 78% since 1990, and continues to trend downwards.
4. “What percentage of teens choose to raise their baby?”
There haven’t been many studies in recent years on the percentage of unplanned teenage pregnancies, other than to report that unplanned pregnancies among teens are at record lows as of 2018.
The most recent evaluation on the number of pregnant teens who chose parenting was in 1988. At that point in time, most teen girls chose parenting. 58% of them were single teen parents.
5. “What is the percentage of teens that choose abortion for their unplanned pregnancy?”
24% of all teen pregnancies end in abortion, according to a 2013 analysis. This number continues to trend downwards and is at record lows.
6. “What percentage of teens place their babies for adoption?”
There hasn’t been a study to evaluate how many teens placed a baby for adoption in response to an unplanned pregnancy since the same 1988 evaluation that analyzed the number of teens who chose to raise their baby. That study reported that less than 2% of teenagers chose adoption for their baby.
7. “Are there educational programs targeting unintended teen pregnancy in the U.S.?”
Yes. Most of these programs are within the U.S. public school system. 25 states mandate sex education in school. However, because individual districts determine the amount and type of sex education that their students receive, the level of education that teenagers have access to can vary greatly.
8. “What are the main causes of unwanted pregnancy in youth?”
The primary causes of unwanted teenage pregnancy are a lack of education and a lack of access to birth control. But other factors can vary based on location.
In developing countries, approximately 90% of births to girls aged 15-19 is due to early marriage, lack of contraceptive access and societal pressure to verify a teenage girl’s fertility.
Parental income and the extent of a teenaged girl’s education level are important factors. Girls who received less education are five times more likely to experience unwanted pregnancy in adolescence than girls with higher levels of education.
9. “What are some of the ways how an unwanted teenage pregnancy could harm your goals?”
According to studies, there are a number of common negative consequences of unplanned teenage pregnancy that can prevent teens from achieving their personal goals, including:
- Ended or interrupted education.
- Difficulty in finding a good job, often due to the lack of continued education.
- Difficulty in maintaining secure housing. Some teens risk homelessness if their family rejects them from the home.
- Strain on relationships, including family relationships, friendships, the relationship between the pregnant teenage couple and even future relationships.
- Financial burdens, which will vary depending on what pregnancy choice the teen makes.
Most teens have dreams for themselves, both big and small. Most of us strive to achieve simple but important goals like:
- Completing your education
- Finding a good job that you enjoy
- Having a safe home
- Being able to afford the necessities (and hopefully a few non-essential things)
- The ability to pursue your interests, hobbies and passions
- Having meaningful and loving relationships
All of these things can be interrupted or even permanently ended by pregnancy. You can read more unintended teenage pregnancy statistics below.
10. “What are some of the ways how to prevent unwanted teenage pregnancy?”
The simplest (and the only 100% effective) way of preventing unplanned teenage pregnancy is for teenagers to not have sex. However, more than half of U.S. teens will have had sexual intercourse by the time they turn 18, so abstinence hasn’t been a realistic solution.
There are several important things outside of abstinence that can help with preventing unwanted teenage pregnancy, including:
- Providing comprehensive sex education for teens (both at home and at school) that includes information about avoiding pregnancy as well as teaching safe sex practices.
- Improving access to affordable birth control.
- Dispelling myths about the efficacy of certain forms of birth control and pregnancy prevention measures.
- Improving access to and communication from health care providers about choosing and using effective birth control.
- Using birth control correctly every time, and/or abstaining from penetrative sex.
- Advocating for better sex education for teenagers in school and at home, and effort to make that education widely accessible.
Unplanned Teen Pregnancy Resources and Support
Not sure what to do next? Start here:
Here are some of the resources you’ll likely need as you navigate your pregnancy and consider your options:
- Find a doctor to confirm your pregnancy
- Find low-cost therapy if you need emotional support
- Contact a pregnancy options counselor to learn about your options
- Establish a support system
- Learn how to tell the father about the pregnancy
- Learn how to tell your parents about the pregnancy
- Contact an abortion provider to learn more about aborting your pregnancy
- Contact adoption agencies to learn more about placing your baby for adoption
- Contact resource providers to learn more about parenting your baby as a teen
- Additional services for teens experiencing unplanned pregnancy
Unplanned Teenage Pregnancy Stories:
Some teens find comfort and clarity in reading the stories of experiences similar to their own. You may find that some stories resonate with you and remind you that you’re not alone.
Keep in mind that some of these teens chose to raise the baby, some chose abortion and some chose to place their baby for adoption. Everyone’s experiences and choices are unique — what is right for one person may or may not be what’s right for you.
Stories from teens that chose to parent:
Stories from teens that chose abortion:
Stories from teens that chose adoption:
More Unplanned Teenage Pregnancy Statistics and Facts:
- Health consequences due to the pregnant teen’s age include increased likelihood to have premature babies or preterm labor, preeclampsia, anemia, low birth weight and physical problems for the baby.
- Boys born to mothers under the age of 19 are 13% more likely to be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Daughters of teen moms are over 20% more likely to have their own children at a young age.
- Children raised by teen moms are more likely to have behavioral problems and chronic health conditions, have higher rates of entering foster care, have lower I.Q.s and be unemployed or underemployed as an adult.
- Teen pregnancy costs the U.S. almost $10 billion per year.
- 10% of teens between the ages of 15-19 get no prenatal care during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Teen parenthood is the leading reason why girls drop out of school. Only 40% of teen mothers graduate from high school. Fewer than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree by the time they are 30.
- More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager.
- Teen moms are twice as likely to experience postpartum depression as their adult counterparts.
- 3 in 10 teen American girls will get pregnant at least once before they turn 20.
- There are nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies each year.
- In 2008, the teen pregnancy rate among African-American and Hispanic teen girls, ages 15 to 19, was almost three times higher than the teen pregnancy rate among white teen girls within the same age group.
- 80% of teen dads don’t marry the mother of their child.
- A sexually active teen who doesn’t use a form of birth control has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within one year.
- An estimated 25% of teen moms have another child within 24 months of their first baby.
- Nearly one in five births to mothers ages 15-19 are repeat births.
The statistics of unintended pregnancies in teens can be pretty grim. But remember there is always unplanned teenage pregnancy help available. Reach out to a pregnancy counselor here.