Teenage Pregnancy | Obstetrics | Dartmouth-Hitchcock
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Teenage Pregnancy

More than 512,000 young women under the age of 20 give birth every year in the U.S., and around 13 percent of all babies are born to teens.

It is very possible for a teen to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Studies have shown that teens who get regular prenatal care have a much lower chance of problems.

Being a teen, being pregnant, and being a mother are all big challenges. Taking good care of yourself and your baby during your pregnancy can make a big difference in your own and your baby's health and well-being.

Pregnancy issues for teens

Many increased risks are due to a pregnant teen's nutritional needs and lifestyle habits.

  • Teenagers may be more likely to have poor eating habits due to peer pressure, lack of time, and weight worries.
  • Teens who have more than one sexual partner have an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, venereal warts, hepatitis B, and HIV.
  • There may be peer pressure to smoke, drink, and take drugs, but those habits can be very risky to your baby.
  • Anemia is more common in pregnant teens due to a greater need for iron as they grow.
  • There is a greater risk of delivering a baby too early or having a small baby.
  • Pregnant teens are less likely to finish their educations, which impacts future job possibilities and income.

Staying healthy

  • Get regular prenatal care. Tell your doctor what your concerns are, and get the support you need to make the lifestyle and diet changes you want to make.
  • Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 400-800 micrograms of folic acid. Take an iron supplement if it is recommended.
  • Nutrition is very important. You have to meet your own needs as well as your baby's. Eat regularly; don't skip meals. Eat at least 3 meals a day, or 4-6 small meals.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, milk products, protein foods (meat, fish, chicken, beans, lentils, soy products, eggs, nuts), and grains. Try to cut down on high calorie/no nutrition foods (junk food) such as sweets, soda, and fried and high-fat foods.
  • The amount of food you eat depends on your body type and weight. If you are underweight, you will need to eat more than you are used to. If you are normal weight or overweight, you will eat about the same amount but you need to get more nutrition from your food.
  • It is important to gain weight in pregnancy. This is no time to diet, but it is not necessary to gain too much. Changing your diet is not easy for anyone, so talk to your doctor for ideas and support.
    • You should gain 25-35 pounds if you begin your pregnancy at a normal weight.
    • Gain 28-40 pounds if you are underweight.
    • Gain 15 pounds if you are overweight.
  • If you smoke cigarettes, stop or cut down as much as possible.
  • If you drink alcohol or take drugs, your baby is at risk, so tell your doctor and get the help you need to stop.
  • You may have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, depression and anxiety disorders, or eating disorders (anorexia, bulemia, compulsive eating). If you have any of these, tell your doctor so you can get the best care possible.
  • If you are in school, stay there and complete your studies. Many teen moms are able to complete their education and find satisfying work. Ask your doctor about resources in your area that can help you with education and job preparation.
  • Ask about, and participate in, a program to prepare you for labor, birth, and becoming a parent.
  • If you have other special needs or financial worries, tell your doctor so you can get help.

Other resources

  • For Teen Moms Only (815) 464-5465
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