According to Healthy People 2020, the prevention of teen pregnancy is of utmost importance to this nation.
As a family nurse practitioner practicing in the Bronx Borough for greater than ten years, I’ve seen the day to day struggle teen mothers endure and the inability to cope with the baby they now have to care for. The teen mothers themselves need care. One particular patient still lingers in my mind. This young lady migrated to the United States when she was six years old. She was the daughter of well-educated and hard working parents of Caribbean decent. She was a straight “A” student with a bright future ahead of her. However, she became pregnant at age sixteen. She was trapped with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. She was afraid to face her parents and was so bothered by being a disappointment to them. Her fear became a reality when she finally told her parents and they threw her out of their home.
As a society and a nation, we need to place great emphasis on preventing these pregnancies from happening. Pregnancy of a teen mother places her baby and herself at serious risk for poor health. According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, about 750,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years get pregnant each year in the United States. Pregnant teens are more likely than more mature pregnant women to experience a range of health risks (Hennessy, 2011). These risks include low birth weight babies, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and premature births. Perpetuation of poor health and poverty are socioeconomic disadvantages to a childbearing teenager. There can be negative effects on the society, the baby or child, and the adolescent mother because of these unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. Society will have to bear much of the financial burden of these teenage pregnancies by paying more taxes to cover healthcare cost.
What can the government do to help with the prevention of these unwanted pregnancies without adding to our out-of-control health care cost?
Scope of the Problem
What I have seen in my practice with the teens that are pregnant, is the fact that they have very little knowledge of where they can access contraception. Some have the knowledge but deliberately are trying to become pregnant because the word is, “if you have a baby, you’ll be able to apply for your own apartment and go on welfare.”
According to the Department of Health, teen pregnancies cost the American taxpayers between 15 billion and 17 billion dollars each year. In the state of the union address, President Obama states that this country’s healthcare cost is out of control and the government will have to cut spending. Since we know the cost of teen pregnancy, the federal government should continue to allocate money to individual states where support is needed to enable clinicians and programs throughout to provide birth control to teenagers. Let’s not make funding for this purpose a target for downsizing the government spending. In my practice, I’ve seen the effectiveness of making contraception easily available to teenagers. Plan B is now available over the counter and condoms are available in almost every corner store in the city. We are heading in the right direction.
The public can refrain from being judgmental when providing birth control to teens. Make them feel comfortable in your present. Teen pregnancy is a problem we cannot let get out of control because as taxpayer, it will cost us dearly to cover the effects of these unwanted pregnancies.