Teen wants to have a child

Dear Alice,

I am only 17 years old, but I want a child. I'm in a steady dating relationship (although it's not always a healthy and happy one) and we've been having protected sex for over a year now, but lately I've had such a strong desire to get pregnant and have a baby. I am great with kids and I think I would be a fantastic mother even though I'm so young. I know it sounds crazy, but I have no one else to confide in about this. I haven't talked to my boyfriend about it, but I'm positive he doesn't want to get me pregnant, he already has a kid. Every time I'm a little late for my period or I feel sick in the morning I don't get nervous, I get excited, hoping that by some miracle I got pregnant. I'm heartbroken when my period comes. Please help me!

Thank you,

Wanting To Be A Mommy

Dear Wanting To Be A Mommy,

Having a child, at any age, can be a big decision and will dramatically change your life. It's not crazy that you want to have a baby. What's important to consider, though, is if right now is the best time to have a baby. Only you will know the answer to that question. It’s helpful to think about the pros and cons of a decision like this. It is also important to have an idea about the potential risks and considerations teen parents must face. You may want to ask yourself a very basic question: Why would you like to have a child? It's also helpful to consider what kind of life you would like to provide your child and if you are able to do that in your current situation. Grab a pen and paper to write out some answers to the above (and below) questions. Here are some considerations to think about:

  • Relationships. You mention that you are positive that your boyfriend doesn’t want to get you pregnant. Have you ever discussed what would happen if you did get pregnant? Would he accept your decision to have the child? And if so, how would he be willing to provide support (financially, emotionally, etc.)? You mention that your relationship with your boyfriend is not always healthy and happy. How might that impact childrearing? Do you think having a child together would make your relationship better? Is it important to you that he be involved in the child’s life? How do you imagine his role as a father? Does he discuss his existing experience as a father? Would your parents and family be supportive of your decision? Would your friends? Would you have anyone you could count on for help?
  • Health. Teen pregnancies have extra health risks for the mother and the baby. Teenagers have a higher risk for pregnancy-related high blood pressure and the associated complicaitons. Risks for the baby include premature birth and low birth weight. It is important to seek prenatal care and to plan for delivery and post-birth appointments.
  • Finances. How will you pay for child expenses? Would you get a job or do you already have one? Would your boyfriend provide financial support? Can you afford food, diapers, formula, clothing, and other necessities? Will you have a place to stay and a way to pay your bills? Prenatal care, delivery, check-ups — there are a lot of health expenses that can add up. Do you have medical insurance? If so, do you know what your insurance covers? Would you have access to transportation to get to such appointments? 
  • Future. What kind of life do you want for your child? What do you need to be able to provide that life? Delayed motherhood has a strong relationship with career success. Do you have any long-term career goals? How might having a child right now impact other goals you have?

Many young women want to have children, but may delay doing so depending on the answers to the above questions. Perhaps not being financially prepared, lacking insurance, or not having support from their partner or family leads them to put off being a “mommy” for now.  Thinking about all of these questions can be difficult, and you may want to speak with someone about your feelings. Columbia students can make an appointment with a counselor through Counseling and Psychological Services (Morningside) or Mental Health Services (CUMC).

If you and your partner do decide to get pregnant, you may want to visit a health care provider for pre-pregnancy planning to get early prenatal care. An obstetrician, nurse practitioner, or midwife can give you advice about conceiving and help you prepare for a healthy pregnancy and baby. If you’re a Columbia student, you can schedule an appointment with Medical Services on the Morningside campus, or if you’re a student on the medical campus, contact Student Health for an appointment.

Good luck in whatever decision you make!

Originally published Dec 21, 2012

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