Teenage-hood is a crucial growth phase in the life of any individual fraught with physiological changes and often, psychological conflicts. During these years, a teenager who becomes pregnant may find it shocking
or traumatizing for her, her family and friends.

Scientifically speaking, teenage pregnancy is the occurrence of pregnancy in females under the age of twenty. Sometimes, even pre-teen females can become pregnant, as reported in various instances.

Teenage pregnancy is a matter of social stigma in most countries, and adolescent mothers are often met with socio-economic disadvantages and ostracization.

According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), teenage pregnancy is defined as pregnancy in girls within the ages of 13- 19. It is a global problem that poses challenges for all those concerned about
young women and their children’s health and well-being. Teenage pregnancy also known as adolescent pregnancy can also include girls as young as 10.

Sironko district is one of the districts with high early pregnancy rates with girls as young as 15 years getting pregnant. Community leaders have not done much to curb this challenge. In fact, little attention is paid
to the matter and many of the leaders are not well versed with the information on this topic within the District.

A number of reasons have led to early pregnancies in the Sironko lands. These include;

Poverty. This has increased the rates of early pregnancies as some parents give their children in marriage in exchange for bride price. Moreover, many of them lack adequate knowledge about the effects of early
pregnancies and therefore do not consider this as they give their daughters in marriage.

Lack of information about sexual and reproductive health and rights. This has contributed to early marriages in Bukiiti Village. Many young girls here are ignorant about their sexual and reproductive rights and cannot easily access people knowledgeable enough to teach them. Moreover, those rights are grossly violated as the various stakeholders meant to implement them do not do so.

Inadequate access by the young people to education services. This has led to early marriages in that failure to access education services and material like books and support fees causes many children to lose interest in school. As such, many drop out and opt to get married instead.

The Family, Community and social pressure. This has contributed to early marriages in Bukiiti Village. In some cases, a number of children opt to seek support from churches in the event that they cannot support
themselves and their new born babies. In such cases, parents may sometimes pressurize their children to forcefully get married however young they are in order to receive support from their husbands.
High prevalence ofsexual violence. In Sironko and Bukiiti district, a large population of the village has drug addicts. Manty people are addicted to marijuana and alcohol causing them to defile young girls who then
become pregnant.

The effects of the early pregnancies.
Adolescent mothers (aged 10–19 years) face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis and systemic infections compared to women aged 20–24 years. Babies of adolescent mothers face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm birth and severe neonatal condition.

A teenage pregnancy can change the course of a young mother’s life. It puts her in a place where she is responsible not only for herself, but also for another human being. Carrying a baby and becoming a mother not only creates physical changes. Women also go through mental changes.

Young mothers face added stress from:
Sleepless nights
Arranging child care
Making doctor’s appointments
Attempting to finish high school
While not all teenage mothers are affected greatly by mental and physical changes, many are. If you experience mental health changes after childbirth, it’s important to reach out to others and seek professional help.

Health & Well-Being
Sex & Relationships

There were nearly 250,000 babies born in 2014 to teen mothers, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. About 77 percent of these pregnancies were unplanned. A teenage pregnancy can change the course of a young mom’s life. It puts her in a place where she is responsible not only for herself, but also for another human being.

Another study reported that teen mothers face significant levels of stress that can then lead to increased mental health concerns. In addition to higher rates of postpartum depression, teenage mothers have
higher rates of depression. They also have higher rates of suicidal ideation than their peers who are not mothers. Teen mothers are more likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than other teenage women, as well. This could be because teen mothers are more likely to have gone through mental and/or physical abuse.

Mental health conditions in teen mothers Teen mothers might face a number of mental health conditions related to childbirth and being a new
mother. Examples of these conditions include:
Baby blues: The “baby blues” are when a woman experiences symptoms for one to two weeks after giving birth. These symptoms include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, overwhelm, difficulty concentrating,
trouble eating, and difficulty sleeping.

Depression: Being a teen mother is a risk factor for depression. If a mom has a baby before 37 weeks or experiences complications, depression risks can increase.

Postpartum depression: Postpartum depression involves more severe and significant symptoms than baby blues. Teen moms are twice as likely to experience postpartum depression as their adult counterparts.
Women sometimes mistake postpartum depression for the baby blues. Baby blues symptoms will go away after a few weeks. Depression symptoms won’t.

Additional symptoms of postpartum depression include:
Difficulty bonding with your baby
Overwhelming fatigue
Feeling worthless
Panic attacks
Thinking of harming yourself or your baby
Difficulty enjoying activities you once did
If you experience these effects after giving birth, help is available. It’s important to know that you aren’t alone. Remember, many women experience postpartum depression.

Risk factors for mental health concerns

Teenage mothers are more likely to fall in demographic categories that make the risk of mental illness
higher. These risk factors include:
Having parents with low education levels
A history of child abuse
Limited social networks
Living in chaotic and unstable home environments
Living in low-income communities
In addition to these factors, teenage mothers are more likely to experience significant levels of stress that can increase risk for mental health disorders.
There are, however, a number of factors that can reduce the likelihood that a teenage mom will have psychiatric issues. If a teen mom has a supportive relationship with her mother and/or the baby’s father, her risks are reduced.

Other factors
While teen pregnancy can have a significant effect on a young mother’s mental health, it impacts other aspects of her life too. It’s important to consider these factors:

According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology Trusted Source, teenage parents often don’t complete higher levels of education. They often have more restricted economic opportunities
than older parents.

Around one-half of teen moms have their high school diploma by age 22. Only 10 percent of teen moms typically complete a two- or four-year degree. While there are certainly exceptions, high school completion and higher education is typically associated with a greater ability to earn more income over the course of a lifetime.

Physical health
According to a study published in Maternal Child Health Journal Trusted Source, teenage mothers had the poorest physical health of all categories of women studied, including women who engaged in unprotected
sex. Teenage mothers may neglect their physical health while caring for their babies. They may also not have access to or know about healthy foods and eating. They are also more likely to be obese.

According to the National Institutes of Health Trusted Source, there’s a higher risk of the following in teenage pregnancy:

Contracting STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
Premature delivery
Delivering at low birth weight
Impact to the child

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children born to adolescent parents face greater challenges throughout their lives. These challenges include getting less education and worse
behavioral and physical health outcomes. According to Youth.gov, other effects to a child of a teenage mother include:

Greater risk for lower birth weight and infant mortality
They are less prepared to enter kindergarten
Reliance more heavily on publicly funded health care
They are more likely to be incarcerated at some time during adolescence
They are more likely to drop out of high school
They are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed as a young adult
These effects can create a perpetual cycle for teenage mothers, their children, and their children’s children.

Conclusively, a number of factors have led to early pregnancies among the secondary students in Sironko and Bukiiti Village. These include social, political economic and cultural factors.

By; Bwanika Douglas Mayanja


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