I know teen mothers from my teen years who went on to college and created a full life with their children, but having children in your teen years is not the healthiest on a teen's body or for the baby.
Teen pregnant mothers do not get adequate prenatal care which is critical in the first 3 months, especially for monitoring their blood pressure (which is more likely to go up), for making sure they have an adequate intake of folic acid, and looking for complications. For these same reasons, the babies are more at risk.
Being a teen mother is also an uphill climb in trying to establish a life for yourself because now there are two and the fathers of these babies by-and-large are not supportive. Teen mothers are more likely to not finish high school and therefore, getting a job that supports her family is even harder.
The States has nine times more teen births than other developed countries according to the Center for Disease Control.
But here in Nicaragua, teenage pregnancy is higher than any other country in the Western Hemisphere and we have to ask why? Unlike the States birth control is available and free here.*
Far more than access to or knowledge of birth control, what seems to influence most teens here is poverty, boredom, and hopelessness. Many simply don't see any opportunities for themselves: to study or gain a skill that will bring money into the household. If they aren't bringing in money, then they don't have any power within their families. Most of the teenage girls we see in our clinic in Nueva Vida, do not date boys their own age, they are dating men in their 20s whom they and their family believe are responsible and can take care of them. In Nicaragua most teen moms we talk to did not get pregnant by accident, it was a choice:
“If I have a baby then the father will support me and my child and I can move out.”
“If I have to take care of my brothers and sisters, might as well have one of my own, then my mom can't tell me what to do.”
"Why wait to have kids until I'm old? I might as well have them now because I'm not doing anything else."
Where the percentage of teen pregnancies are low are areas in the world where women are encouraged to stay in school and that includes graduate school. Where birth control is free and easily accessible....but mostly where there is hope for girls.
Through our clinic, Becca is starting a group for teen girls who are not in school or employed to try to expose them to other options and add hope to their lives. Our health promoter, Jessenia, is working with the teens who are already moms and whose children are now over one year to see where they can make changes for good for themselves and their child.
Free family planning, education for all, and hope…this is what we need to give young women worldwide a fighting chance. Having babies in their teen years compromises their health and the health of the babies. Not all teens have the patience and knowledge to give their children the best care. And any way you slice it, teen motherhood is especially hard…so let’s work to reduce teen pregnancy.
If you want to help some of these girls you can give a gift in honor of your mother for Mother's Day! Just go to https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/jhc-cdca
*Abortion has always been illegal in Nicaragua and in recent years even therapeutic abortions for cases where the mother’s life is in danger have also become illegal.