When your daughter is pregnant and planning to have a baby, there are many changes ahead for your family. And while it's certainly not what most parents expect, it happens every day: Nearly 250,000 teens in the United States give birth each year.
When your teen becomes a mother (or your child has had a child), it can be overwhelming for all of you. How can you support your child in the upcoming challenges?
what you might feel
If you've just found out your teen is having a baby, you're probably experiencing a variety of emotions, from shock and disappointment to sadness and worry about the future.
Some parents feel guilty and think that if they had done more to protect their child, this would not have happened. And while some parents feel embarrassed about their teen's pregnancy and worry about how family, friends and neighbors will react, others rejoice at the news of a future grandchild, especially if the teen is older and in a mature relationship.
Regardless of the feelings you are experiencing, this is likely to be a difficult time for your family. The bottom line is that your teen needs you now more than ever. It is important to be able to communicate with each other, especially when emotions are running high. Teens carrying term babies have particular health concerns, and your daughter will have a healthier pregnancy emotionally and physically knowing she doesn't have to make it on her own.
So what can you do as a parent of a teenager who is about to have a baby? Acknowledge their feelings and work them through so you can accept and support them. Does that mean you have no right to be disappointed and even angry? no Such reactions are common. You may have to deal with a strong rush of emotions, especially in the beginning. But the reality of the upcoming baby means she must go beyond her initial feelings for her daughter and son.
If you need help dealing with how you are feeling about the situation, talk to someone you trust or seek professional advice. A neutral third party can be a great resource at times like these.
What your teen might be feeling
Recently, your teen's biggest concerns might have been hanging out with friends and wondering what to wear. Now she's dealing with morning sickness and planning prenatal visits. His world was turned upside down.
Most single teens don't plan on getting pregnant and are often scared when it happens. Many teenagers, especially younger ones, keep the news of their pregnancy a secret because they fear their parents' anger and disappointment. Some may even deny that they are pregnant, making it all the more important for parents to step in and seek medical care for their teen as early in the pregnancy as possible. Younger teenage pregnancies in particular are considered to be at high risk because their bodies have not yet finished growing and are not fully mature.
Teens who want to become parents also need their parents' involvement. While some children welcome the opportunity to care for their children, others feel fear and guilt and may need encouragement to shoulder their responsibilities (the father is legally responsible for child support in all states).
However, that doesn't mean you should force your teen into an unwanted marriage. Offer advice, but remember that forcing your opinion or using threats on your teen is likely to backfire in the long run. There is no “one size fits all” solution here. Open communication between you and your teen will help you think about the future.
Special concerns of pregnant teenagers
Although most adolescent girls are biologically capable of bearing healthy babies, this often depends on proper care.medical attention– especially in the critical first months of pregnancy.
Teens who receive proper medical care and take care of themselves are more likely to have healthy babies. Those who do not receive medical care are at increased risk for:
- fetal death
- Complications of labor and delivery (eg, preterm labor and stillbirth)
- child with low birth weight
The earlier your teen gets prenatal care, the better their chances of conceivinghealthy pregnancy, so take her to the doctor as soon as possible after you find out she's pregnant. If you need help finding medical care, contact social services in your child's community or school.
Your teen's doctor can tell you what to expect during pregnancy, how to care for yourself and your growing baby, and prepare for life as a parent.
Some topics that will be covered include:
At her first antenatal visit, your teen will likely have a full physical exam, including blood and urine tests. You will be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and for exposure to certain diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella.
Your doctor will also discuss the following:
- how often prenatal visits should be scheduled
- what she may be feeling physically and emotionally
- what changes you can expect in your body
- how to manage some of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy, like nausea and vomiting
Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the anxieties your daughter may have about pregnancy. Your doctor will likely prescribe a daily prenatal vitamin to ensure you're getting enough folate, iron, and calcium. Folic acid is especially important in the first few weeks of pregnancy when it plays a role in the healthy development of the neural tube (the structure that becomes the brain and spinal cord).
Your teen's healthcare provider will discuss the lifestyle changes you need to make for your baby's health, including:
- not smoking (smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and cot death)
- not drinking (alcohol causes mental and physical birth defects)
- not using drugs (drugs are associated with pregnancy complications and stillbirth)
- no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day (the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee)
- eat properly
- rest enough
- Avoiding risky sexual behaviors (e.g. unprotected sex)
If your daughter smokes or uses alcohol or other drugs, her doctor can offer ways to help her quit.
Fast food, soft drinks, sweets - the diet of young people is notoriously one-sided.eat wellgreatly increases your teen's chances of having a healthy baby, so encourage them to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads (use US Department of Agriculture guidelines onmy plateas a guide).
Important nutrients are:
- Protein (lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, beans, peanut butter, tofu)
- Calcium (milk and other dairy products)
- Iron (lean red meat, spinach, iron-fortified cereals)
- Folic acid (green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, fortified grains)
Drinking plenty of water is also important.
Pregnancy is not the time for your daughter to go on a diet. During pregnancy, some teens may be tempted to counteract normal pregnancy weight gain by reducing calories or exercising excessively, which can seriously harm their babies.
If you suspect your teen has unhealthy weight concerns, talk to your doctor.
If your teen was physically fit before pregnancy and has no pregnancy complications, their doctor will likely encourage them to continue.working out.
Most women benefit from some exercise during pregnancy, although they may need to adjust their activity. Gentle exercises such as walking and swimming are best. Have your daughter discuss her exercise plans with her doctor early on.
Most teens enter parenthood unprepared and unprepared for the stress that a new baby brings, and many experience frustration, resentment, and even anger toward their newborns, which may explain why teenage parents are at greater risk of abuse are neglecting their babies.
You may want to speak to your teen's doctor to discuss how he or she can help them manage their stress levels so they can better deal with changes in their life. You may also want to spend some time with other parents of newborns to get a better idea of what taking care of a baby is all about.
Your daughter's doctor will likely recommend that she take classes on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. These courses (some of which are just for teens) can help prepare you for the practical side of parenting by teaching skills like feeding, diapering, child safety, and other basic baby care techniques.
Preparation for new tasks
Many practical issues must be considered. Will your teen keep the baby or consider adoption? If she keeps it, will she raise the baby herself? Will he still go to school? Will the father be involved in the baby's life? Who bears the financial responsibility for the baby?
The answers to these questions often depend on the support your daughter receives. Some young people raise their children alone, others depend on the baby's father, and still others on the support of their families.
As a parent, you should think about your own level of commitment and involvement and discuss this with your teen. How much support, financial and otherwise, are you willing and able to offer? Will your daughter and son live with you? Will you help pay for food, clothing, doctor visits, and necessities like a car seat and stroller? Can you help with childcare while she is at school and/or at work? A social worker or counselor can help you and your teen deal with some of these issues.
If possible, it is better for pregnant girls to finish school so that they can get better jobs and create a better life for themselves and their babies. Not an easy task: 60 to 70% of all pregnant adolescents drop out of school. And coming back after quitting is especially hard, so try to give your daughter the support she needs to stay in school; Both you and the baby will benefit. Look for school and community programs that offer special services for teenage mothers, such as childcare, transportation, or tutoring.
Help your teen understand that having a child isn't always fun, rewarding though it is — caring for a baby is a huge responsibility and a lifelong commitment. Prepare her for the reality that she won't have as much time for the things she used to do, that her life is about change, and that the baby will come first.
As a parent, you can have a huge impact on the lives of your teen and baby. Maybe you still wish she had made different choices. But if you support your daughter, make sure she gets good prenatal care, and listen to her share her fears and anxieties, you both may find that you're better parents in the long run.