A Look Behind the Scenes of a Teen Pregnancy

November 23rd, 2010 | Posted in Pregnant Teen by

from Focus on the Family

Before considering how you might respond to the news that your unmarried teenager is pregnant, take a brief tour of the emotions and thought processes that are likely to be swirling through her mind and heart.

Your daughter’s experience

  • Fear is an overriding emotion in nearly every teen pregnancy. “I can’t tell my parents. They’ll kill me!” “How can I finish school when I’m pregnant?” “My boyfriend will take off if I don’t have an abortion.” The adolescent with a crisis pregnancy probably sees nothing but loss on the horizon — loss of love, time, education and physical health. Fear of one or more of these losses propels most of her other responses. Remember that the average age difference between the father of the baby and the teenage mother is 6.4 years.


  • Denial is common, especially during the early weeks of pregnancy when the only indication might be one or more missed periods, a little fatigue, possibly some nausea or even a positive pregnancy test. The longing for things to be “the way they were” may delay acknowledging the problem and seeking appropriate help for weeks or even months.


  • Ambivalence about being pregnant may cause fluctuating emotions. One day the only solution may appear to be an abortion, while the next the prospect of a cuddly baby may seem appealing. Time spent with a friend’s crying newborn may jolt the emotions in yet another direction. Indecision and apparent lack of direction in such an overwhelming situation are common.


  • Guilt. When a pregnancy results from the violation of moral values held since childhood, an adolescent will usually feel ashamed and worthless. Her growing abdomen becomes a constant reminder of her failure. This is a time when you can come alongside your child and cement a lasting relationship with her.


  • Pressure to have an abortion. This may come from several directions. A teenager may be weighing what appears to be a dismal future of hardship and remorse against a quick and relatively inexpensive procedure. “No one needs to know, and I can get on with my life.” A boyfriend (who may be dealing with his own fear and guilt, along with concerns about future financial responsibilities) may exert considerable pressure to abort, even offering to pay the bill. He may also threaten to bail out of the relationship if the pregnancy continues. Some parents, worried about their daughter’s future or perhaps their own reputation in the community (or even the prospect of being responsible for the actual child-rearing), may also find abortion attractive.


  • The “cuddly doll” mentality. Some unmarried teenage girls see their pregnancy unrealistically as an escape from a difficult and unpleasant home situation. They may envision a baby as a snuggly companion who will require roughly the same amount of care as a new puppy, not realizing the amount of energy a newborn will take from her without giving much in return (especially during the first few weeks). Teens with this mindset need to adjust their expectations of child-rearing — not to drive them to abort, but to help them make more appropriate plans. If adoption is not chosen as a solution, some careful groundwork should be laid to prevent serious disappointment and even the mother’s abuse of the baby.


Your experience as parent(s)

If a pregnancy is an upheaval for a teenager, it is also no picnic for her parents. Discovering that your adolescent daughter is pregnant is a trial like few others, and reactions — fear for her future, denial, guilt — may parallel hers with equal intensity. Parents are likely to feel anger in a number of directions — anger toward their daughter for being careless, not taking their advice, not using good judgment and disobeying them and God. They may be angry with the boy (or man) involved, who has violated their trust and their daughter’s well-being. They may be angry with themselves for any number of reasons: They were too narrow or too permissive, too busy or too tired to tune into their daughter’s world for the past several months — and now look what has happened.

Anger is such a classic parental response that the daughter may try to keep her pregnancy a secret. In fact, many states allow minors to obtain abortions without parental consent or knowledge, based on the presumption that the mother or father will be so disruptive and unreasonable that the teenage daughter can better deal with her pregnancy without them.

Your most difficult (and character-building) task is to show how much you really love your daughter, even though you don’t approve of what she has done. The classical Chinese symbol for the word crisis has special meaning in this situation. It consists of two symbols: one representing danger, the other, opportunity. The danger is that your response to the pregnancy may open wounds in your family that will take years to heal, if they ever do. Your opportunity is rising to the occasion in such a way as to earn your daughter’s lifelong respect and gratitude.

Your mission is to remain calm when panic is in the air and to be more concerned about her embarrassment than your own, which may be enormous. It is to be comforting, when you feel like saying, “I told you so!” It is to help organize everyone’s conflicting impulses into a thoughtful plan in which the family can work as a team. It is to guide the baby’s father into responsible participation if he is willing, when you would just as soon enlist him in the Marines. Most of all, it is to channel your intense feelings into productive outlets — through planning, prayer, vigorous exercise and blowing off steam to a tolerant friend rather than at your child.

Your daughter will need help, and lots of it, but not a total rescue. She must make a fast transition to adulthood, a state about which you know a great deal more than she does. You must resist the temptation to throw her out or keep her stuck in childish irresponsibility by making all of her decisions. She needs to face all the tough decisions and demands of pregnancy but with you at her side as a confident ally.

You may have one very critical decision of your own to make. What role do you intend to take in the child’s upbringing? If the mother-to-be is very young, you may see another parenting job on the horizon and perhaps resent the idea. Or you may be excited about having the nest occupied for several more years. Your feelings on this issue need to be sorted out, and your course of action planned accordingly.

In the midst of your family’s deliberations, be sure ample consideration is given to adoption. A pregnant teenager may be torn by the thought that “if I had the baby, I couldn’t handle giving her away.” But adoption can provide a livable solution for all parties involved. The baby is raised by a couple who intensely desire to be parents, and the birth mother can pick up and move on to complete her education and career goals, postponing her own parenting until she is ready.

You will also need to address the question of abortion. Many voices will be calling your daughter to the abortion clinic, claiming this simple procedure will bring the crisis to a swift and straightforward resolution. Some parents may be tempted to give this option serious consideration for similar reasons.

Abortion is not a procedure like an appendectomy that eradicates a piece of diseased tissue. It ends a human life that is designed to develop in a continuous process from conception through birth and beyond. Because this life is unseen for now, its identity and significance may pale in comparison to the problems and concerns of the moment. That developing person whose life is in the hands of her mother and those influencing her, cannot speak for herself.

Your daughter should consider making an appointment with a local pregnancy resource center (often called a crisis pregnancy center or CPC) in order to sort through the issues, gather information and consider her options in a compassionate setting. Even if she has strong opinions about what her course of action should be, a pregnancy center can be an extremely valuable resource. Services available at most centers include a realistic assessment of the impact of each option, ongoing counseling support, assistance with medical and other referrals, and maternity clothes and baby supplies. It is important that capable and compassionate medical care be maintained throughout the pregnancy. Many pregnant teens delay or avoid seeking appropriate care for a variety of reasons. But adolescents have higher rates of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth compared to older women. Most of these problems can be significantly reduced (or at least anticipated) with consistent prenatal visits and appropriate medical follow-up.

Excerpted from “Let’s Talk About Sex,” published by Focus on the Family. Copyright © 1998 Focus on the Family.

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One Response to “A Look Behind the Scenes of a Teen Pregnancy”

  1. US Teen and births to unmarried mothers increase…

    For the first time since 1991, teen births and births to single moms has increased….

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