Your Teen Is Having a Baby
Your daughter has taken the first step to handling this situation by confronting you about her unplanned pregnancy. If she is planning to have the baby, many changes are in store for your family. If she is planning to have an abortion or place the baby for adoption, she will need your family’s support now more than ever. Remember that your teen is not a bad person and is facing something that nearly 1 million teenage girls in the United States face each year.
What You May Be Feeling
At first, you might experience a wide range of emotions, from shock and disappointment to grief and worry about the future. Some parents feel a sense of guilt, thinking that if only they had done more to protect their child this would have never happened.
Whatever you are experiencing, this is likely to be a difficult time for your family. Just remember, your teen needs you now more than ever. Your teen will need to be able to communicate with you, especially when emotions are running high. Teens caring babies to term have special health concerns; your teen will need your help.
You have every right to experience the emotions you are feeling after your teen has told you she is pregnant. But you will need to recognize your feelings and work through them so that you can accept and support your daughter.
If you need help coping with your feelings about the situation, talk to someone you trust or seek professional counseling. A neutral third party can be a great resource.
What Your Teen May Be Feeling
Just a few short weeks or months ago, your teen’s only worries were what to wear and whose house she is sleeping over that weekend. Now she is dealing with morning sickness and prenatal visits. Her world has been turned upside down, and she needs you.
Many teens keep the news of their pregnancies secret because they fear the anger and disappointment of their parents. Some might even deny to themselves that they are actually pregnant. Younger teens’ pregnancies are considered high risk because their bodies have not finished growing and are not yet fully mature.
Remember that there is no “one size fits all” solution for teen pregnancy, and your daughter needs open communication with you.
Special Concerns of Pregnant Teens
The health of a baby of a teenage mother depends on whether they receive adequate medical care – especially during the critical early months of pregnancy. Young women who do not receive medical care are at greater risk for fetal death, high blood pressure, anemia, labor and delivery complications, and low birth-weight infants.
When you bring your teen to her medical health care provider they will go through a full physical exam and screenings for sexually transmitted infections and exposure to certain diseases. Her health care provider will also discuss how often prenatal visits should be scheduled, what changes she can expect in her body, and how to deal with some of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy.
Your teen will need to change some lifestyle choices for the health of the baby. These include not smoking, not drinking, not using drugs, avoiding excess caffeine, eating right, getting enough rest, and avoiding risky sexual behavior.
Teen diets are notoriously unbalanced, but now with the baby on board your teen needs to be encouraged to maintain a well-balanced diet. She should be drinking plenty of water and taking in important nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid.
As you know from experience, along with a new baby comes a new form of stress. Some teens experience frustration, resentment, and even anger toward their newborns due to the stress levels that come along with being a new teen mother. You may want to talk with your daughter’s doctor to discuss ways you can help her manage her stress levels so that she can better cope with changes in her life.
Preparing for New Responsibilities
Many practical issues must be considered when your teen is pregnant. Will your teen keep the baby or consider abortion or adoption? Will she continue to go to school after her choice has been made? If she doesn’t plan on continuing school, will she get her GED? Who will be financially responsible for the baby?
As a parent, you should think and talk about your level of involvement and commitment. How much support are you willing and able to offer? Will you help pay for food, clothing, doctor’s visits, and necessary items like a car seat and stroller? A social worker or counselor can help you and your teen sort through some of these issues.
You will need to help your teen understand that as rewarding as having a child is, it isn’t always fun and caring for a baby is a huge responsibility and a lifelong commitment. Her life is about to change and the baby will take priority over all else in your daughter’s life.
The best thing that you can do now is be there for your daughter as much as you can and back her up in whatever decision she decides to make for herself and her child.