The consequences of unwanted pregnancy
There are many negative consequences of unwanted pregnancies: some are common to all unwanted pregnancies, others depend on the precise domestic situation of the young woman or the couple.
What domestic situations might the young woman be in?
She might be married to an older man or to a young man. She may be unmarried but in a stable relationship and her partner may be willing to marry her or, she may be unmarried with no one willing to take responsibility for her or the baby.
What particular problems will an unmarried mother and her child face?
In most communities both the mother and child face the stigma of illegitimacy. As a result, unmarried mothers resort to low-paid jobs such as domestic work or risky jobs such as prostitution to support their children.
An early marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy is frequently an unhappy, unstable one because partners blame each other for the situation they are in. This often leads to divorce and the single mother will have to deal with the stigma of divorce as well as all the practical problems of bringing up the child without the emotional or financial help provided by a husband.
Even if a young couple stay together, they are often ill prepared to raise a child, which may lead to childrearing problems like neglect or even child abuse.
Other problems for young couples relate to their formal education and career opportunities. An unwanted pregnancy often means the end of formal education for girls. Boys who become fathers lose opportunities for education and future economic advancement as they leave school to support their new families.
Pregnancy during adolescence is associated with an increased risk of medical conditions such as anaemia or hypertension (high blood pressure), unsafe abortion, premature birth, obstructed and prolonged labour, stillbirth and maternal mortality.
Being aware of all these consequences will help you to decide how to provide both psychological and medical support for adolescents who have already become pregnant. It is important to realise that adolescents with unwanted pregnancy are already in significant psychological distress and they should receive appropriate counselling and support during pregnancy and after child birth.
Some of the common conditions among adolescent pregnant women such as anaemia and hypertension are harmful to the growing fetus, which makes the need for proper follow-up even more essential. Hence, whenever you encounter an adolescent who is pregnant, you need to look for such medical risks (anaemia, hypertension, malnutrition), explain to them that these could harm their own health and that of their baby and refer them to the nearest higher health facility.