Making healthy choices
Unexpected teenage pregnancy doesn't have to ruin a young mother's life, but it will certainly change it. There are a wide variety of options available to teen mothers. Only they can decide how this unexpected development will ultimately impact their lives.
Teen mothers can be expected to experience a broad range of emotions. It is important to support the teenage mother emotionally and recognize that she is most likely experiencing shock, fear, embarrassment, excitement, delight and confusion.
Reactions to teenage pregnancy are as varied as teen mothers themselves. The important thing to realize is that these emotions are subject to change from one minute to the next. Mood swings are common during this time when a young woman's body is going through significant changes, and she finds herself facing so many choices. It's important not to force opinions on the teenage mother, but to educate her about her situation lovingly and rationally.
Here are a few steps teenage mothers should take to help them during this fast transition into adulthood:
- Get medical care immediately. The best way to ensure the health of a teenage mother and her baby is to seek medical attention as soon as pregnancy is suspected. It is important for the teen mother to develop a close, trusting relationship with her obstetrician and to become educated by a professional about her choices and the need to care for and respect her changing body. Someone should accompany the teenage mother on her visits to her doctor, for emotional support and to review all of the new information provided to her by her physician.
- Research community resources. If the teenage mother needs assistance, there are many community agencies available to help. If you aren't familiar with these resources, look for "Child and Family Services" in the Yellow Pages. Some programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will help the teenage mother get the healthy foods she needs to have a healthy baby. Other programs offer financial assistance. A caseworker can help determine a teenage mother's short-term and long-term needs and identify the agencies that can help. When the time is right, these agencies can help the new mom find suitable employment and continuing education.
- Seek counseling. Now is the time for a teenage mother to talk to a professional therapist or psychologist to help her identify her own feelings about the pregnancy and make important choices.
- Come clean. Tell important adults about the pregnancy. Depending on the teenage mother's previous experiences with the adults in her life, she may be hesitant to share the news. Sometimes coming clean is the hardest part of the pregnancy. The sooner the teenage mother is able to open up and deal with the adults in her life honestly, the better she will feel. The teen mother should ask a close friend or family member to accompany her and help her decide the best way to approach the conversation. Positive moral and emotional support are of the utmost importance for the teenage mother.
By Donna M. Brown
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