Teen Pregnancy: From Challenges to Choices

teen pregnancy

Although teen pregnancy rates in the United States have reached record lows, pregnancies under the age of 20 are still relatively common. If you learn that your teen is facing a pregnancy, the best course of action is to remain calm and offer your support. The best suitable course of action to follow hinges on whether your adolescent is the anticipating mother or father. Regardless, it is crucial to maintain an objective stance and allow the parents-to-be to decide next steps. It is acceptable to express concerns about the future, but sharing feelings of disappointment, anger, or disapproval towards your child will not benefit anyone involved.


What is teen pregnancy?

Teen pregnancy occurs when an individual becomes pregnant before they turn 20. Teen pregnancy can have a range of physical, emotional, and social consequences. These consequences include an increased risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications, lower academic achievement, and economic challenges. Additionally, teen parents – especially teen moms – may experience higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and may struggle with the demands of parenthood while juggling education or starting a career. 


How to prevent teen pregnancy 

It is crucial to keep in mind that while the mother carries the baby, conception requires the participation of both partners. Most teen pregnancies are unplanned and result from either failure to use or improper use of contraceptives during sexual activity. However, with adequate education and open communication, teenagers can be better equipped to protect themselves against both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. Adolescents who are informed about safe sex practices and have access to contraception are more likely to engage in responsible sexual behavior, which can reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy and its associated consequences. 


Despite concerns from some parents that sex education may encourage sexual behavior among teenagers, numerous studies have demonstrated that comprehensive sex education programs can be highly effective in promoting responsible sexual behavior, delaying sexual activity, and reducing the risk of STIs and unintended pregnancies. These programs typically provide accurate, age-appropriate information about healthy relationships, consent, contraception, and other aspects of sexual health, and encourage open communication between parents and their children.


Read more about preventing unplanned parenthood.


Medical risks associated with adolescent pregnancy

Teen parenting can pose medical concerns for both the parents and the baby. Teenage mothers have a higher likelihood of encountering pregnancy-related medical complications, such as anemia, preeclampsia, and premature birth, compared to women in their twenties. Additionally, babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to have low birth weight and a greater risk of infant mortality. Teen moms need early prenatal care and regular medical checkups throughout pregnancy to monitor both their and their baby’s health. Teen fathers may also experience increased stress and mental health risks, such as high blood pressure and anxiety, as they navigate the challenges of parenthood. Taking steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding harmful substances, can also help reduce the risk of medical complications.



A pregnant teenager has several options to consider. They may choose to continue with the pregnancy and become a parent. In this case, they can seek medical care and support from healthcare providers, family, and friends. The pregnant adolescent may also decide that kinship care or giving the baby up for adoption is the best alternative. Kinship care arrangements refers to when grandparents or other relatives assume the role of primary caregivers for the child. This can be established through a private or informal agreement, or through state child welfare systems. 


If your teenager is contemplating adoption, it is crucial to understand some fundamental aspects of the process. Adoption can be carried out through either public or private channels and can either be open or closed. Public adoption involves working with a government agency that places children in adoptive homes, while private adoption involves working with a private agency or an adoption attorney. In an open adoption, the biological parents and adoptive parents have some form of communication and may even have ongoing contact, whereas in a closed adoption, the identities of both sets of parents are kept confidential, and there is no contact. 


Termination of pregnancy

Abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy by removing the fetus and placenta from the uterus. It can be performed surgically or with medication, depending on the stage of pregnancy and the individual’s medical history.


Consult with your child’s healthcare provider regarding the impact of local regulations on the availability of pregnancy termination choices, and where to locate trained and authorized medical practitioners in your region. 


Learn more about teens and their right to abortion.

You can read more about your adolescents’ options when facing a teen pregnancy here.


Supporting a teen mom

Supporting pregnant adolescents includes ensuring they know their options, emotional support, listening to concerns, and helping them navigate the healthcare system. If they have decided to carry their baby to term, encouragement to care for their body and attend prenatal appointments is crucial for them and the baby’s health. Offering assistance with transportation, preparing for childbirth and parenthood, as well as infant care, is another great way of showing your support. 


Additionally, providing educational resources, such as parenting classes and information about breastfeeding, can help the teen mom feel more confident and prepared for motherhood. It is essential to offer non-judgmental support and respect their decisions as a parent, even if they may differ from your own beliefs or values.


Supporting a teen dad

When a teen is preparing to become a father at a young age, they need support and encouragement from you. Any assistance and advice you can offer will often be appreciated as they learn how to care for their growing family. Supporting a teen father who does not want to be involved in parenting can be a challenging task. It is important to acknowledge that every situation is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Have open and honest conversations about feelings and concerns. It is essential to listen to their perspective without judgment and offer support and guidance on how to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the child. Encouraging counseling or therapy can also be helpful in coping with the emotional and psychological challenges associated with being a teen father.


In Virginia, a parent can not relinquish their parental right unless it is for adoption. 


Supporting teen parents in general

It is essential to help teen parents identify and access resources such as parenting classes, childcare options, and financial assistance programs. Encouraging them to stay in school or pursue educational and career goals can also be helpful in ensuring a brighter future for both parents and their child. It is crucial to offer ongoing emotional support, listen to their concerns, and provide guidance as needed while also respecting their autonomy as parents. Remember that every situation is unique and it is important to offer non-judgmental support and guidance tailored to the teen parents’ specific needs and circumstances.