The health of America’s adolescents is being called into question. On the Healthy People website, they make the point of saying that “The behavioral patterns established during these developmental periods help determine young peoples’ current health status and their risk for developing chronic disease during adulthood.” (Healthpeople.gov). Put simply, this means that the decisions that teenagers are making now, can drastically affect their lives as adults. This includes drinking, smoking, sexually transmitted diseases and, the topic of this essay, pregnancy. By having a child as a teenager, adolescents are setting themselves up for a lifetime of having to prioritize that baby; if they choose to abort the baby, then that can affect the chances of conception later in life, and it can having a scarring effect on the mental well-being of the young couple.
Troubledteen101.com provides some statistics about teenage pregnancies in the U.S. and it makes for troubled reading: “In 2001, 84 of every 1,000 teen girls in the U.S. became pregnant.” (Troubledteen101.com) This means that just under one tenth of teenage girls were pregnant in 2001, making the United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and births in the industrialized world. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that there are 900,000 teenage pregnancies each year, that 4 out of 5 are unintended, and that the cost of teenage pregnancies costs the tax payer over $7 billion every year. These are staggering statistics and it is no wonder that the government have launched the Healthy People campaign to try and improve this situation: the financial cost, as well as the emotional, is dearly paid every year.
The effects of these pregnancies are felt across the board and the facts are that teenage girls who fall pregnant, are less likely to graduate from High School and are more likely to have to rely on money from the state to survive and in all likelihood, live in a higher degree of poverty than women who delay having children until a more suitable time. (Troubledteen101.com). This means that the direct effect of a teenage pregnancy can affect the future prosperity of the country. This is unacceptable anywhere, but is especially so in the U.S. as one of the world’s strongest, wealthiest and most power countries.
Nursing must play a large role in trying to alleviate the health consequences of this terrifying statistics. For one, nurses must encourage young women to be open with them and to talk about how they are feeling. According to Watson’s Theory of Human Caring, nurses must take a humanistic approach to caring and look at the whole patient: “mind, body and soul.” (Innovativecaremodels.com) Nurses must play a part in investigating why teenage girls are not saying ‘no’ to sex or even ‘yes’ to contraception. Perhaps it is a self-esteem issue, and with the constantly rising images of sex and ‘attractive women’ in the media, is it any wonder our nation’s youth are feeling so overwhelmed? In terms of prevention of teenage pregnancies, nurses must spread knowledge of the long-term effects of a pregnancy and promote healthy choices while sharing “caring moments” with patients. As with nursing, the rest of the nation also need to address this situation in a holistic sense: instead of asking ‘how?’ we need to be asking ‘why?’ and working towards the prevention of teenage pregnancy at the root of the problem.
- Healthypeople.gov. (2010). Adolescent Health. Retrieved from http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=2#Ref_09
- Innovativecaremodels.com. (2011). Overview of Jean Watson’s Theory. Retrieved from http://www.innovativecaremodels.com/uploads/File/caring%20model/Overview%20JW%20Theory.pdf
- Troubledteen101.com. (2009). Teen Pregnancy Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.troubledteen101.com/articles36.html