The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent survey on teen sexual activity and contraceptive use reveals that adolescents are making more responsible decisions for their reproductive health. Teen pregnancy is also at its lowest in the past 20 years, with a birth rate of only 22.3 percent per 1,000 for women aged 15 to 19 years.
From the survey results alone, the CDC is not sure whether the teenage pregnancy rates declined because of abstinence or contraceptive use, but it is still good news since preventing teen pregnancy could potentially save lives.
According to the World Health Organization, health risks and complications related to teen pregnancy and childbirth are one of the leading causes of death for women aged 15 to 19 years all over the world. This is because female adolescent bodies are still not fully equipped to handle pregnancy in their teens, despite how physically mature they seem.
Health Risks To Teenage Moms
The biggest health issue teenage pregnancy poses for the mother is an increased risk for preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition that can affect the kidney and liver or cause seizures in severe cases.
Any pregnant woman can experience preeclampsia, but the ones most at risk are first-time moms, women younger than 20 years and older than 40 years, and women whose mother has had preeclampsia.
Pregnant women can address preeclampsia with the help of proper prenatal care; however, teenage mothers are less likely to follow a consistent prenatal care plan than older ones. This not only jeopardizes their health but increases health risks for the baby as well.
On the other hand, those who decide to discontinue the pregnancy could fall victim to unsafe abortion, leading to increased and lasting health problems for the teen.
Health Risks To The Baby
The WHO explains that babies of teenage mothers face more health risks than the mothers. For instance, teenage moms who do not receive proper prenatal care would not be able to provide proper nutrition to the fetus during gestation. According to the organization, babies born to teenage mothers face a 50 percent higher risk of death within the first few weeks. Those who survive are still not completely safe.
"The younger the mother, the greater the risk to the baby. Newborns born to adolescent mothers are also more likely to have low birth weight, with the risk of long-term effects," the organization explains.
Infants with low birth weights are more likely to have underdeveloped organs that can cause severe health complications as well as childhood disorders, and even increases the risk of infant mortality.
Hope From The New Survey
The health risks alone already reveal why it is important to prevent teen pregnancies so the results of the survey are already a welcome change.
"I think it really shows that when we equip young people with the knowledge and the skills to protect their sexual health, they're capable of making decisions best for them," Nicole Cushman, executive director of Answer, said.
Answer is a national organization that offers sex education trainings for educators and resources for students.
The results also most likely mean that educating teens about sex is an effective tool in preventing unwanted pregnancies.