The purpose of this research paper is to present an insight into the psychological impact of pregnancy on teenage women.  The topics that will be covered in this paper include a variety of psychological issues that a woman confronts during and after pregnancy:  first and foremost, why teenage women become pregnant; how abuse can affect relationships between a teenager and her boyfriend, her family, and her child; how a teenager can tell her parents that she is pregnant; what are the positive and negative lifestyle changes for teenagers after they become pregnant; and, last but not least, the options opened up for a teenage girl once she is pregnant.    

Causes of teenage pregnancy
When most people are asked why teenage women become pregnant, they respond with something on the lines of, "They become pregnant because they could not control the urge of temptation before getting married."  That is not entirely true for most teenage women.  In fact the reason most teenage girls become pregnant is because they do not get enough love and attention.  They do not have a parent willing or able to talk to them about their lives and to direct them in the right direction.  Single parent families are usually in poverty.   Teenage women who have only one parent in the house are sometimes neglected all the time because that one parent is out working and trying to support the family.  According to Evelyn Lerman in Teen Moms: The Pain and the Promise, the eighty percent of teenage women who become pregnant are in poverty before they become pregnant. 
As a result of their neglect, teenage women might crave love.  So, they seek out someone to love, and that someone would be a boy or man to have a loving relationship.  The woman intends to spend her life with the guy.  They become closer emotionally and physically.  The woman feels compelled to invest her body to maintain the relationship and that is where the problems of becoming pregnant begin. 
Some teenage women in a loveless household might not feel the need to be loved by a boyfriend.  However, without a parent to direct the teenager and set limits, a teenager might be unable to distinguish right from wrong.  That is where peer pressure takes hold.  Teenagers who are part of the "wrong" crowd of people who smoke, drink alcohol, take drugs, and have sex might be pressured by their peers to follow their routines.  Lerman estimates that twenty-five percent of teenagers feel pressured to have sex.  The best way to fight peer pressure is to have a strong relationship with a parent, and without a parent to talk to that might be extremely hard if not impossible to fight. 
Another form of pressure to have sex comes from television, movies, and other media.  Teenagers see these characters in movies and television sleeping around and not getting pregnant; or they hear about the promiscuous lives of singers, actors, models, writers, or sports players, but do not hear about the often-tragic outcome of their sex lives.  So, they are given the message that it is not dangerous to have sex with one person, or even more.  Teenage girls might also receive the message that it is ok to have sex from another source: their moms.  Single mothers who had a child when they were teens, and are now managing their lives might be giving a message to their daughters without even knowing it.  Their teen daughters can see that they made it though life even though they had sex so young, and that they [teenage girls] can do it too.  Sixty percent of all teens are raised by a single parent (Lerman). 
Teenage girls who do not have a father figure in their lives are more likely to favor having a relationship with an older man to compensate.  In fact, in a majority of relationships with teenage girls dating older men, the younger the girl the older the man.  A big reason for this is that a teenager feels so hip and cool showing off her older boyfriend to all her friends and colleagues.  Teenage women may feel a sense of psychological security with an older, fatherly man in their lives.  Money can be a reason for dating an older man.  Women who are in poverty and want a better and more comfortable lifestyle would gravitate to a man who has big assets.  Of course some teenage girls do not care about popularity, security, or money.  They just love the person that they are with.  They fall in love with their intelligence, background, or kindness.  Then the girl begins to have sex with the older man, and becomes pregnant.  When this happens, a girl's life can be ruined even more severely compared to getting pregnant with someone around her age.  The teenager could be mocked and called such violent words as a "whore" or "tramp".  She could lose her reputation, family, and friends.  Worst of all she could lose her boyfriend if he were to be sentenced to jail for having sex with a minor or in some cases being forced to choose between her and his wife.  All of these outcomes can diminish a teenage girl's self image and well being.  Most relationships with older men do not work out because the two people involved eventually realize that they have little or nothing in common.

Abusive Relationships 
Abuse can seriously hurt a woman physically and emotionally, and can also be a factor for a woman becoming pregnant.  The two major ways that abuse can be a powerful factor for a teenage girl are from verbal abuse and physical abuse.  In situations when a girl's mother is dating a man that is not her biological father, the man is more likely to take advantage of the teenager in a sexual manner.  The teen usually would not be willing to tell her mother of the sexual abuse, and as a result could let the abuse go on for months if not years.  This type of abuse can do a series of effects to the teenager.  It can make her think that all men are bad, and she should never trust a man.  Her lack of trust in all men can cause result in her inability to ever settle down and have a family.  In rape scenarios, the girl could become pregnant with her mother's boyfriend.  That could cause even greater emotional problems for the girl due to the mother's jealousy and rejection.  It is always wise no matter how uncomfortable the situation that the girl informs her mother (or other supportive relatives), friends, sexual abuse counselors, or law officials in domestic rape situations. 
Sometimes a relationship that does not start off abusive can become so.  In the beginning, girls will perceive their male companion as a kind, fun, intelligent person, but over time after the girl falls in love with the man that can all change.  The guy in a girl's life might evolve into an abusive individual.  He might call her names and offend her, which would be verbal abuse.  He also might beat her or rape her, which would be physical abuse.  Although the girl who is emotionally and sometimes physically abused has the option of ending the relationship, she might not want to.  As crazy as this might sound, it might seem logical to the girl.  She might be blinded with love that she cannot bring herself to the notion that she is being torn up.  Another possible reason for staying with the man could be because she is in denial; she feels that the abuse is not his fault, but hers.  Often times this unfortunate situation comes about due to the man's deliberate mind games to control the woman.
Teenage women who are the victims of parental abuse are three times as likely to subject their child to abuse or neglect (Lerman).  The reason for this is because a teenager is not able to distinguish the problems she has with her parents from the problems of her child.  Abuse can take passive or active forms. 
Passive abuse takes place when the teen mother begins to ignore her child, and only focuses on herself or is so overwhelmed by the needs of earning a living that she has no time or energy for her baby.  What causes a real threat with this is that the teen mother does not worry about the major issues dealing with her child.  She does not focus on being a good loving mother.  She does not focus on staying in school and getting good grades so that she can get a well-paying job to support her child.  She does not focus on her baby's health.  She does not pay close attention to the options that will help her and her child.  Some of these options include day care services, welfare to help give her child what he/she needs, and support groups to help her manage her way through life with a baby. 
Active abuse takes place when the teenage mother hits or screams at her child for ignorant reasons like the child will not stop crying, or the mother is upset about another matter.  When the teenage mother hits her child she does not seem to know that she is doing anything wrong because that was how she was raised.  Beating a child can cause some serious physiological problems for the child as well as the mother.  The mother can become easily frustrated and find violence is the only way to overcome grief.  She might become distraught thinking that she is a failure as a parent when seeing the reaction of her child after being beaten.  Thoughts of failing as a parent can soon turn into thoughts of failing at life.  The teen mother might become depressed and consider suicide.  Teenage women who are pregnant or have a baby are seven times as likely to commit suicide than teenage women who are not responsible for their own child (Lerman). 

Telling Parents
One of the first thoughts that enter a teenage girl's mind is how to tell her parents that she is pregnant.  Although telling them will be upsetting and painful, it is usually better to let parents know as soon as possible.  A teenager should organize her facts and understand how she wants to lay them out in front of her parents.  It is better emotionally for a teenager to talk to a close friend, relative, spiritual leader, possibly the father of the baby, or doctor so that she does not have to figure out alone how to tell her parents.  The reason for this is to take off some of the pressure from the teenager so she can stay calm and relaxed when she gives her parents the news.  In some cases, it is not wise for a pregnant teen to tell a school counselor that she is pregnant.  The reason for this is because some school counselors are not specialized in dealing with teen pregnancies.  In fact, they might make the whole situation seem worse for the teenager.  For teenagers who still do not feel ready to tell their parents that they are pregnant even after talking with other people, they should ask someone to be present when they deliver their parents the news.  Another person present can help offer support to the teen and the family during the discussion.  A teenager should not feel ashamed when she tells her parents that she is pregnant.  It is important to keep as much of a positive attitude about the situation at all times because all that really matters is the health of the mother and, maybe, of the baby.

Lifestyle Changes
Despite what most people believe is true about becoming pregnant as a teenager "once you become pregnant, it's all downhill from there," that is only half the reality.  There is without a doubt a whole new world opened up for a teenager once she has a baby, but not all of it is negative.  Sure, there is no more staying out late with friends, and going to parties.  The closest friends a teenager had might be out of her life.  That would leave the teenager depressed and miserable.  In fact, the closest friend a teenage mother has after she gives birth is her child.  That might not be a bad thing.  For teenagers who spend all their time in gangs, getting high, getting drunk, getting in trouble and getting low grades in school, that usually changes with a baby.  After having a baby, a teenager may become focused on raising her baby, and that means an end to her old life as a wild teen.  In order to bring up a child, a teenager may focus on maintaining good grades and not doing things that could result in being sent to a juvenile detention center or prison.  Teens usually become more organized after having a baby.  They now have to eliminate all the fun, relaxing activities in their life, and schedule time to do homework and take care of their baby.  For many teens, their life is more positive than it was before having a baby.  Many teens do not like the sudden change of having to stay up late feeding and taking care of their baby.  They feel that their social life is gone, but some teenagers feel differently about that.  Teenagers, who before getting pregnant had to take care of siblings because no one else was there to do it, usually do not feel upset about losing their social life because they never had one.  They feel that taking care of their child is no different than taking care of a younger sibling. 

Teenage women who become pregnant usually have two options besides keeping the baby.  First, they can have an abortion, which is discontinuing the pregnancy within twelve weeks after the baby is conceived.  Second, they may choose to give the baby up for adoption, which is giving the baby to an orphanage or to another family where it will hopefully live in a more healthful and peaceful environment.  
Although abortion might seem ethically and morally wrong to some teenage women, it might be the best option.  Most teenagers consider abortions first.  They do not want to be judged by their peers and elders.  They fear the shame of giving birth to a kid when they too are also still just a "kid."  They also may not want to have to deal with the physical and psychological pain of giving birth.  The biggest obstacle with obtaining an abortion may be the cost.  Teens who are in poverty usually do not get any farther in pursuing an abortion once they learn the cost.  Other teens may feel that their religion prevents this course of action and that any punishment they may receive from parents or scorn from peers will be mild compared to eternal punishment.  For the teens that do actually go through an abortion, the pain can be unbearable, emotionally.  After having an abortion, teenage women go through a period of intense hormonal change.  As a result of this change, they feel a variety of emotions like short-term anger, guilt, regret, or sadness.  Fortunately, these feelings usually pass quickly.  Teens who feel depressed six weeks after getting an abortion are advised to receive counseling. 
Giving a baby up for adoption is usually the most devastating course of action for teenage women.  When a teenager decides to give her baby up for adoption, she has two ways of pursuing it.   She can give the baby to a family that she feels, will take care of the baby; or, she can give the baby to a state or private agency which may find a foster family and eventually an adoptive family.  Adoptions are the most devastating for teenage women because they feel upset for giving away part of their family.  Psychological problems can form for teenage women with a baby when their child is being taken care of by a relative or social service agency for a majority or all of the time.  There are psychological risks involved in giving up control of the baby to other relatives or agencies.  The teen mother might begin to think that the child has forgotten her and come to the notion that she has failed as a parent and has no reason to live since the biggest responsibility of her life does not even care about her. 

Often, teenage mothers worry about their child someday trying to track their mother down so that they can meet.  Some teenagers who choose adoption hate the idea of their child finding them because they do not want their child to see the person that gave them away.  Some mothers do attempt to keep contact with their child after adoption.  There are two ways that they can try to maintain a relationship with their child.  First, if they chose an agency adoption they can set up an open adoption which is giving messages to the state department that gave the child to a foster family.  In return, those messages can be forwarded to the child.  In both cases of an agency and independent adoption, the mother may become friends with the family that is taking care of her child.  Both of these forms of keeping a relationship with the child are great for the mother so that she does not have to live with the guilt and suffering of thinking she made a mistake giving away her child, and knowing her child understands why she did what she did.

This research paper was intended to explore the physiological effects of teenage women who are pregnant or have a baby.  Hopefully now friends, parents, lovers, or peers of teenage women will have a better understanding of what they [teenage women] have to go through during pregnancy.  They should be able to understand that teenage pregnancy has many psychological phases for people who approach it differently.  They should also be more knowledgeable on what they can do, and what certain services can do to help teenage women who are pregnant.  The paper is dedicated to all the teenage women out there and their babies


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Sited: September 14, 2002
Sited: September 13, 2002

The Psychological Effects of Teenage Women During Pregnancy
by Sean Powers (September 22, 2002)

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