Two blue lines. I’m shaking as I unwrap another pregnancy test. I bought only what I could afford from the pharmacy, which was exactly two at-home pregnancy tests. Now I have one minute to wait. This is definitely the longest minute of my life. The result is … pregnant, again. Great, I’m officially a statistic I never, ever wanted to become: 16 and pregnant.
My name is Maria. I’ve had exactly one partner, my ex-boyfriend, Andre. We only had sex a few times before our breakup. Andre used condoms, but they were cheap and were stored in his jean pocket for a while … I think maybe one might have broken. Who knows.
I have never been this scared in my whole life. My head is spinning. It’s hard to focus. I am going through flashbacks of my childhood. Heating up water on the stovetop to take a bath, fixing pesky holes in my shoes with tape, stretching out my peanut butter and jelly sandwich from lunch to be an after-school snack, too. We had the kind of poverty that leaves dirt under your fingernails and a feeling of always being less than anyone else … I don’t want this for my baby. I can’t let this cycle of poverty continue to repeat itself.
This isn’t the right time. I don’t want to do this alone. I feel sad, worried, and hopeless. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow. Someone, please help me. Please help my future little one, too.
I have mostly been raised in a poor, urban neighborhood. My parents have always had struggles with addiction, and their addiction problems led to legal problems. My parents lost custody of my siblings and me when we were elementary age and younger. My siblings and I have been raised by immediate and extended family members. Thankfully, we have been able to avoid the foster care system.
I am the oldest of my siblings and have often felt the pressure to grow up very, very quickly. I go to a local high school. I am not sure if I will be able to graduate high school now that I am expecting.
There are many risk factors or influences that increase the likelihood of a person getting pregnant during their teenage years. These risk factors include, but are not limited to:
Protective factors are aspects or circumstances of teen life that can reduce the likelihood of teen pregnancy. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:
I know a few other girls in my high school that have become pregnant. All I know is it seems like there is a quick vanishing act once girls get pregnant … They drop out of high school, they relocate, they take time off. Basically, they disappear. It seems like a lot never complete high school. I don’t want to disappear. I want to make it to high school graduation, I just don’t know how.
Overall, the birth rate for U.S. teens has been declining since 1991. From 2018 to 2019, the teen birth rate declined from 17.4 per 1,000 females ages 15-19 to 16.7 per 1,000 females ages 15-19.
Despite the decline in teen birth rates over time, the United States still has much higher teen birth rates in comparison with other countries. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information titled “Adolescent pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates across countries: levels and recent trends,” among 21 countries, the teen pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-old females was highest in the United States.
Here in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2016, the estimated number of teenage pregnancies among females ages 10-19 was 14,647 or a 19.9 per 1,000 birth rate.
I go to my first prenatal appointment. Once checked in, I’m told to leave a urine sample to confirm my pregnancy. I do, and it’s confirmed. Third time’s the charm to confirm I am definitely, definitely pregnant. I feel sick. Wait, I am sick. I am having my first-trimester “morning sickness.” Why do they call it “morning sickness” when it happens all day, every day? I will never understand.
First I meet with the doctor. The doctor notes I am 16 right away. “Yep,” I respond while looking down. The doctor seems very rushed. I look around the exam room, and the alphabet letters are peeling from the wall. The doctor recommends I meet with a social worker to discuss my “situation.” The doctor’s office does not have an in-house social worker but has one that is on call and can meet with me later this afternoon at a different office across the city. “OK,” I think. I quietly calculate the cost of getting across town. I think I’ll barely be able to afford it.
According to an article in American Family Physician, pregnant females ages 13 to 19 may have:
Also, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:
“Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents,” an article published by Pediatrics, outlines that teenage mothers may be at risk of developing the following mental health conditions:
An article in BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology titled “Long term social consequences of adolescent pregnancy,” reports that teen mothers often have long-term negative consequences such as getting less education and reduced household income.
I arrive at the social worker’s office. The social worker I meet with is named Elaine. Elaine happens to be bilingual in Spanish. I immediately feel more at ease in communicating with her.
Elaine provides information and pamphlets about teen pregnancy. Elaine asks me to draw a circle with me and my baby in the middle of a piece of paper. “OK … this is weird,” I think. I draw the circle with baby and me. She has me continue to draw circles around me and the baby. It looks a little bit like a dartboard once I am done. Elaine wants me to think of this as my “circles of support.”
Elaine asks, “Who is the closest to you that can provide you and baby with support? Whether that’s emotional or financial support? It could look like childcare when you are in a pinch or temporary housing if you need it.” I think about my parents … hooked on drugs. I think about my extended family and how they have taken on the unwelcome burden of my siblings and me. I respond honestly, “I don’t have anyone I can think of.”
The social worker has me write down her name: Elaine. “Great,” I think. “A stranger I just met is my only source of support.” Elaine says we will work on building this social system as it will be important for me and the baby. I like talking to Elaine. I schedule the next counseling appointment.
If you or your loved one is an adolescent in need of or interested in counseling, adolescent counseling treatment is available at SUN Behavioral Columbus. At SUN, we will assess your unique needs and provide recommendations to best address your mental health concerns. We aid in managing common mental health disorders for children and adolescents that include, but are not limited to:
We use evidence-based therapy approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and provide access to psychiatry services.
Being a teen mom can be a scary and lonely experience. You may be wondering: How can I best care for my little one? The best way you can care for your little one is by getting the help you need today. You are not alone in your mental health or substance use struggles. Gain access to quality, compassionate care today. Call (614) 706-2786 to begin your journey toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.