Teenage pregnancy can have a profound impact on a teen's life. Help your daughter understand the options, health risks and challenges ahead.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Pregnancy can be one of the most difficult experiences a teenage girl ever faces. Understand how to support your daughter as she deals with teenage pregnancy.

Teenage pregnancy is often a crisis for a young girl and her family, as well as the baby's father and his family. Common reactions might include anger, guilt and denial. Your teen might also experience anxiety, fear, shock and depression.

Talk to your daughter about what she's feeling and the choices ahead. She needs your love, guidance and support now more than ever.

A pregnant teen has a variety of options to consider:

  • Keep the baby. Many pregnant teens keep their babies. Some marry the baby's father and raise the baby together. Others rely on family support to raise the baby. Finishing school and getting a good job can be difficult for a teen parent, however. If your daughter plans to keep the baby, make sure she understands the challenges and responsibilities involved.
  • Give the baby up for adoption. Some pregnant teens give their babies up for adoption. If your daughter is considering adoption, help her explore the different types of adoption available. Also, discuss the emotional impact.
  • End the pregnancy. Some pregnant teens choose to end their pregnancies. If your daughter is considering an elective abortion, discuss the risks and emotional consequences. Be aware that some states require parental notification for a legal abortion.

In addition to talking to you, encourage your daughter to talk about the options with the father of the baby and his parents or guardians, her health care provider, or a specialist in pregnancy counseling. Talking to a psychologist or social worker might be helpful, too.

Also, keep in mind that in some states, a pregnant teen is considered to be an emancipated minor who has the right to make her own decision about her pregnancy.

Pregnant teens and their babies are at higher risk of health problems than are pregnant women who are older. The most common complications for pregnant teens — especially those younger than age 15 and those who don't receive prenatal care — include a low level of iron in the blood (anemia), high blood pressure and preterm labor.

Babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and have a low birth weight.

A pregnant teen can improve her chances of having a healthy baby by taking good care of herself. If your daughter decides to continue the pregnancy, encourage her to:

  • Seek prenatal care. During pregnancy, regular prenatal visits can help your daughter's health care provider monitor your daughter's health and the baby's health.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If your teen has an STI, treatment is essential.
  • Eat a healthy diet. During pregnancy, your daughter will need more folic acid, calcium, iron, protein and other essential nutrients. A daily prenatal vitamin can help fill any gaps. In addition, your daughter might need extra calcium and phosphorus because her own bones are still growing.
  • Stay physically active. Regular physical activity can help ease or even prevent discomfort, boost your teen's energy level, and improve her overall health. It can also help her prepare for childbirth. Encourage your daughter to get her health care provider's OK before starting or continuing an exercise program, especially if she has an underlying medical condition.
  • Gain weight wisely. Gaining the right amount of weight can support the baby's health — and make it easier for your teen to lose weight after delivery. Encourage your daughter to work with her health care provider to determine what's right for her.
  • Avoid risky substances. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other illegal drugs are off-limits during pregnancy. Even prescription and over-the-counter medications deserve caution. Remind your daughter to clear any medications or supplements with her health care provider ahead of time.
  • Take childbirth classes. These classes can help prepare your daughter for pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding and being a parent.

If your daughter lacks the money or transportation to obtain prenatal care — or needs help continuing her education — a counselor or social worker might be able to help.

Teenage pregnancy often has a negative impact on a teen's future. Teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and to attend college, are more likely to live in poverty, and are at risk of domestic violence. Teen fathers tend to finish fewer years of school than do older fathers. They're also less likely to have a job.

Children of teen parents also are more likely to have health and cognitive conditions and are more likely to be neglected or abused. Girls born to teen parents are more likely to experience teenage pregnancy themselves.

If your daughter decides to continue the pregnancy, address these challenges head-on. Discuss her goals and how she might go about achieving them as a parent. Look for programs to help pregnant teens remain in school or complete course work from home. Encourage your daughter to take parenting classes and help her prepare to financially support and raise a child.

Whatever choice your daughter makes, be there for her as much as possible. Your love and support will help her deal with pregnancy and the challenges ahead.

Jan. 10, 2015