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,

Childbearing and childrearing, at any age, can be a big decision and will dramatically change your life. It's not absurd that you want to have a baby. Regardless of age, there are plenty of reasons why a young person may want to start a family. Some teenagers state that pregnancy gives them a sense of purpose and leads them to prioritize education and work to best provide for their baby. Other young folks use pregnancy as an opportunity to fulfill their emotional needs as having a child may provide them with a feeling of unconditional love or help them secure a stable relationship with the other parent. That being said, being a parent as a teen also comes with challenges. Being pregnant as a teen may come with additional health complications and may hinder educational attainment. All of that being said, there are no universal experiences for people who have kids as a teen, and there are no guaranteed outcomes for you if you were to have a child at your age. Therefore, you may want to ask yourself a very basic question: Why would you like to have a child?

The potential health complications involved with teen pregnancy are worth your consideration. Lower maternal age, while typically associated with fewer obstacles during labor, is also associated with more maternal and fetal health risks. As a teenager’s body is still growing, the increased competition for nutrients between them and the developing fetus may ultimately result in a stillbirth. Preeclampsia (a high blood pressure disorder) is particularly common in teen pregnancies and can result in low infant birth weights, premature births, or even maternal death. Other complications such as anemia, hemorrhages, and preterm premature rupture of membranes (also known as PPROM) are also possibilities for any young person who becomes pregnant. Pregnancy and birth can also take a toll on mental health and could lead a teenager to develop postpartum depression after labor.

Additionally, those who give birth prior to graduating high school are less likely to graduate than those who give birth after. Subsequently, those who give birth after high school, but prior to attending college, have lower rates of attending college in the future. However, studies show that in the long-term, giving birth as a teen doesn't have a significant effect on their economic outcomes. The long-term outcomes of a teen parent are more likely to be attributed to the environments and conditions they experienced prior to becoming parents than the actual event of having a child. 

It might be helpful to have a conversation with your boyfriend about your desire for a baby so that the two of you can communicate your wants and expectations. You mention that you are positive that your boyfriend doesn’t want to get you pregnant. Have you two ever discussed what would happen if you did get pregnant? Would he accept your decision to have the child and be able to provide support? Since you mention that your relationship with your boyfriend is not always healthy and happy, it could also be a good idea to consider the impact that this dynamic might have on childrearing. Do you think having a child together would make your relationship better? Is his involvement in the child’s life important to you? Is it important to you that he be involved in the child’s life? How do you imagine his role as a father? Would your friends and family approve of you two having a child together and be able to provide support?

On a similar note, since having a child profoundly changes a person’s life, you may want to think about how having a baby would affect your future plans. Finances, in particular, are a good place to start: how will you pay for child expenses? Do you have a job or, if not, would you be able to get one? Would your boyfriend be able to contribute to cover expenses? Will you two have a place to stay and a way to pay for rent? 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? Additionally, having a child may change the ways in which you can achieve educational and career goals. Do you have a plan of what you would like to achieve for yourself in the future? How might raising a child impact that plan? Thinking through all of the questions may help you determine whether or not having a child now helps you accomplish what you're hoping to achieve. 

Many people 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 parent for now. These answers may also help them to realize that having a child is something that they would like to do now. Thinking about all of these questions can be difficult, and you may want to speak with someone about your feelings with a counselor or mental health professional. 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.

Good luck in whatever decision you make!

Last updated Jan 13, 2023
Originally published Dec 21, 2012

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