Navigating pregnancy as a teenager:Coping with my new body (part 1)

Teenage or adolescent pregnancy is, put simply, pregnancy in a woman aged 10-19 years. Although teen pregnancy has been on the decline since 2016, according to CDC statistics, still nearly 200,000 babies were born to women aged 15-19 in 2017. On a global scale, the World Health Organization reports that the adolescent birth rate in 2018 was around 45 births for every 1000 girls below 20 years of age. The reason behind giving those numbers is to reveal an eye-popping truth – you are NOT the only one, and you are definitely NOT alone in this. In the coming weeks, we will talk about the health concerns and possible risks (personal and social) with teenage pregnancy as highlighted by WHO. For now, here is a general overview of facts.

Shedding Some Light

Along the way of this new experience, you will need to put many misconceptions straight. Plus, deal with the physical changes that will occur to your body as it is preparing itself for providing your baby with a loving environment in which to grow and develop. To give you a helping hand, we will discuss all these things here.

Signs & Symptoms of Teen Pregnancy

The first most noticeable tell-tale sign of pregnancy is a missed period. However, teenage girls do tend to have irregular periods due to things like too much exercise, excessive dieting, and low body fat. WebMD platform list the most common pregnancy symptoms, among which are (besides missed periods):

  • Morning sickness (usually manifested through vomiting or nausea mainly in the morning hours)
  • Soreness of the breasts or the nipples
  • Regular urination (more often than before)
  • An unusual feeling of exhaustion
  • Sudden cravings for certain foods
  • Mood swings

The best way to determine whether you are pregnant or not is to have a pregnancy test using your morning urine. You can get one at any drugstore (over the counter – no need to have a prescription).

Common Teenage Pregnancy Misconceptions

Your life is screwed now” is something you will probably hear a lot during your nine months of pregnancy, and even well after it. Society tends to look down women that give birth at an early age, considering them unable to parent a child, being at nearly childhood age themselves. This can’t be further from the truth. In fact, teenagers can be exceptional mothers (and fathers). Teen participants in the My Pregnancy Project initiated by the University of Arizona helped bust four common myths related to teenage pregnancy:

  1. Teens do NOT necessarily have unhealthy babies.
  2. Teens are NOT more likely to neglect or abuse their children.
  3. Teenage mothers do NOT always drop out of school.
  4. Teenage pregnancy and poverty do NOT always go hand-in-hand.

Chances are social media and reality TV shows have overly dramatized teen pregnancy, making it look like it is a terrible thing to be a teen mother. Although it is not the best place to be at a young age, it is not terrible. And, remember that raising children has to do with the morals you will teach them, and the love you will give them rather your age or social status.

What Changes Take Place in Your Body During Pregnancy?

Over the nine months, your body will gradually change as the baby develops and grows. Some of these changes take place during the early stage of pregnancy, while others are observable after a few months. Here is what to expect:

  • Bigger-in-size breasts – Your breasts may be tender when you touch them. After a couple of months, you will most likely need to get yourself a bigger bra. Head to a mom boutique, baby store, or store selling larger underwear and ask the friendly assistant to help you choose the right bra size!
  • Some weight gain – During the second and third trimester, the waistline expands. This gives you a great opportunity to hit the mall and do some shopping! You will find lots of fashionable and modern clothes to wear for sure. Better avoid clothes with a tight fit (i.e., non-elastic waistband); you need to feel comfy and relaxed! You may also notice your midsection becoming a bit larger as you move into the pregnancy. Overall, you will put on some weight that ranges from 11 to 25 kilos, most of which will be gained after the 12th week of gestation. However, many factors affect exactly how much weight you will gain. Consult your dietician, midwife, or doctor for advice on what is best for you diet-wise. Don’t worry about keeping all that weight after you give birth. Over time, you will lose all the extra kilos!
  • Hair changes – The hormones change inside the body throughout the nine months of pregnancy. These hormonal shifts can do strange things to your hair. Some girls watch their hair become gloriously thick. Others’ straight hair become curly. You never know! You may, though, develop lifeless hair.
  • Skin changes – Hormones also affect the skin, which can look fresher and healthier over the course of your pregnancy weeks. You may notice skin color changes (brown patches often called the pregnancy mask), especially if you have a darker skin tone. To avoid making it worse, do wear sunscreen. In any case, the skin usually reverts to normal after birth.
  • Stretch marks – Not all pregnant teen girls have this problem. It depends on their skin quality. At first, these show up as lines with a different texture than the skin surrounding them. They are also either purplish or reddish but do turn much thinner and lighter after the pregnancy.

You can prevent their appearance or minimize how they look by using creams and other skin products created for that reason.

Note:  Your body undergoes massive changes during the early stages of pregnancy. This can cause symptoms of fatigue where you may feel more tired than usual. This is normal, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly fall asleep in the afternoon, when you would normally, say, work out.

Where to Seek Help

Almost all countries have established organizations, support programs, helplines, and other initiatives to walk teens through pregnancy struggles. You will be able to talk to people about your options and gain access to valuable information, services, and resources. For example, in the UK, you can get advice and support from:

  • Shelter – A charity that will give you information about housing benefits and options for young parents.
  • Family Nurse Partnership – They will send a family nurse to your home and support you from the early stage of your pregnancy and all the way until your baby is 48 months old.
  • Family Lives – They support families, in several different ways, including the families of young parents, of course.
  • Tommy’s – They provide details for young parents. A site led by midwives.

In the USA, you can call the American Pregnancy helpline (1-800-672-2296) or visit the Child Welfare Information Getaway.  If you live in Australia, you can check out Pregnancy Birth & Baby site that offers details about financial support. As already mentioned, though, each country has its own teen pregnancy support mechanisms, so do a Google search to make a list of them!