As a society, we have a romantic view of motherhood. The archetypal mother is a woman who is kind and caring and has always wanted children. She has a natural urge to take care of others, and her life is fulfilled by pregnancy and birth. This view of motherhood is not dispelled by the media, where pregnancy is often shown as complication-free, and raising a child is deeply fulfilling. The effects of this narrative do not discriminate by age, and teenagers are equally as likely to be drawn into the story as older parents. It is important that whether the pregnancy is intentional or not, pregnant teenagers are able to assess all of their options in an educated and level-headed way. Teenage pregnancies can be dangerous and have long term effects on the parent and the child, and teen parenthood, especially motherhood, needs to be deromanticised.
Physical effects of teen pregnancy
As with all pregnancies, pregnant teenagers could face a number of physical challenges. According to the World Health Organisation, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the worldwide leading cause of death amongst people with uteruses aged 15-19. Teenagers who give birth often have poor physical health and neglect their own needs whilst caring for their baby. They are also more likely to be under and overweight than other persons who give birth. Pregnant teenagers are also at higher risk of preeclampsia, anaemia, contracting STDs, and premature delivery.
The babies of teenage parents may also face a range of physical problems. As well as increased risks of stillbirth and miscarriage, the newborns are more likely to have a low birth weight and suffer from severe neonatal conditions. Similarly, teenage parents are less likely to receive vital prenatal care within the first few months of pregnancy. This puts both the parents and the baby at risk of complications.
Romanticised ideas of pregnancy and motherhood can lead to the serious harm, and even death, of the pregnant teen, foetus, or baby. Pregnant teenagers may face many fewer physical complications from a safe abortion than from an unsafe pregnancy. Aborting a foetus is a safe medical procedure and should be considered when discussing the long term health effects of the pregnant teen.
Mental effects of teen pregnancy
The mental effects of pregnancy are particularly taxing for teenagers, partly because their bodies are still going through hormonal changes, and partly because they are less well-equipped to deal with the strains of pregnancy and childbirth. Research shows that pregnant teens aged 15-19 are twice as likely to suffer from postpartum depression as those aged 25 and over.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include difficulty bonding with the baby, exhaustion, anxiety, panic attacks, and thoughts of harming themselves or the baby. Teenage parents also have higher levels of depression, stress, and suicidal thoughts than their peers who haven’t given birth.
Pregnant teenagers are less likely to have good support networks. The relationship between these factors goes both ways, as pregnant teens often come from backgrounds of assault, low education, low income, or chaotic or unstable homes and communities. Similarly, teens who get pregnant are more likely to be rejected by their parents and friends. This lack of support network puts them at higher risk of suffering mental effects from their pregnancy.
Although having an abortion is an extremely mentally strenuous procedure, teen pregnancy’s effects on mental health are equally as impactful. Motherhood, or parenthood, often does not live up to the unrealistic expectations displayed in the media, especially for teenagers who don’t have the support or stability that is needed. Having an abortion does not mean that a teen who wants a child will never have one, and they can in fact be kinder for the pregnant teen and the foetus.
Effects of teen pregnancy on the future of the teen
Pregnant teens also experience socio-economic effects. Teenage parents are more likely to drop out of school and are therefore more restricted in what employment opportunities they can pursue. This puts them in an unstable economic situation. They are also less likely to experience a variety of social situations than their peers, making it more difficult to develop good friendships and expand their support networks. The physical and mental effects of pregnancy may also stop the teen from recovering and adapting later in life, both because the effects can be long-term, and because they are committed to caring for the child for 18 years.
Abortions allow pregnant people of all ages to take back control over their lives. They should be seen as tools for creating a better future, as opposed to fixing a past mistake. The number of teenagers getting pregnant has declined over the last decade, from 16 million teen births in 2000 to 13 million in 2019. However, this decline is uneven worldwide, with regions such as India and South Asia leading the charge, and other regions including North Africa and the Middle East falling behind. Seeing ‘motherhood’ as a serious commitment with physical, mental, and social effects is a crucial part of the decision-making process for any new parent, especially teenagers.
You might be also interested in: “Unintended pregnancies and abortions” or “Abortion, reproductive rights, and maternal mortality”
 Patel, P. H., & Sen, B. (2012). Teen motherhood and long-term health consequences. Maternal and child health journal, 16(5), 1063–1071. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-011-0829-2
 Koniak-Griffin, D., Walker, D. S., & de Traversay, J. (1996). Predictors of depression symptoms in pregnant adolescents. Journal of perinatology : official journal of the California Perinatal Association, 16(1), 69–76.
 Save the Children. (2019). CHANGING LIVES IN OUR LIFETIME.
World Health Organisation. (2020). Adolescent pregnancy. Who.int. Retrieved 5 June 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-pregnancy.