Doctors are concerned about the well-being of adolescents in places where abortion is expected to become illegal, as the Supreme Court prepares to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Despite the fact that teen pregnancy has been on the decline since 1991, paediatricians say abortion is still a viable option for girls under the age of 18.
Between the ages of 10 and 15, most females have their first period, and most teenagers report being sexually active before they are 18.
Teenage girls, despite their ability to become pregnant, are frequently left out of national discussions on abortion, according to Chez Smith, CEO of Gyrls in the HOOD, a Chicago-based non-profit dedicated to improving reproductive health outcomes for adolescent girls in urban areas.
“It’s almost as if they shouldn’t be having sex in the first place, so they’re not even part of the discourse,” Smith explained.
Contraception, sex education, and community outreach have all helped to reduce teen pregnancy rates. Dr. Charis Chambers, a fellow at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, noted that just because something improves doesn’t mean it’s no longer a necessary priority.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, females aged 15 to 19 accounted for little under 5% of all births in the United States in 2020. However, inequities persist, with Hispanic and Black/Non-Hispanic teen girls having more than twice as many births each year as white teen girls, according to the HHS.
According to Chambers, motherhood can be associated with wonderful experiences, just like any other mother. Teens “tend to be in awe of what the body is capable of,” according to the study “she said. “The problems are truly many, and in many situations, they overshadow the achievements,” he says “she said.
It can be difficult for teenagers to find resources and navigate the healthcare system for themselves and their new baby.
Only about half of young mothers graduate from high school by the age of 22, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The emotional toll of childbirth can be significant. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, adolescent mothers are twice as likely as adult mothers to experience postpartum depression. According to the survey, teenagers are also at a high risk of acquiring generalised depression and anxiety.
The pregnancy is not without danger. Pre-term labour, premature rupture of membranes (which raises the risk of infections such chorioamnionitis), and delayed labour are more likely in younger and older mothers, according to Chambers. Other medical issues, like as preeclampsia and even postpartum haemorrhages, can also arise. The risk of maternal death during childbirth is also extremely significant.
However, being a mother as a teenager has consequences for both the mother and the child. Children of adolescent moms are more likely to struggle in school, drop out, give birth while still in high school, and experience unemployment as adults.
Despite the numerous short- and long-term consequences of becoming a mother as a teenager, terminating a pregnancy can be difficult.
“Deep grief is possible,” Chambers remarked.
While battling the stigmas of being a teenage mother and having an abortion, the decision to terminate can be lonely.
“They feel traumatised, guilty, or shamed,” Smith continued.
Medical and surgical abortions come with their own set of hazards, such as bleeding and infection.
Smith claims that after terminating a pregnancy, some females become more responsible. They make different judgments about sex and contraception as a result of the experience because they don’t want to be in that scenario again and know they don’t have the resources or supports to care for a baby right now, according to Smith.
Smith and Chambers believe that the greatest technique for teenagers is preventive. However, when prevention is no longer an option, the ability to have a safe abortion becomes even more critical. Smith goes on to say that overturning Roe versus Wade, which would limit abortion access in many states, would be especially harmful to the youth she works with.
“It’s an invasion of that hallowed place where the doctor and the patient collaborate to make decisions,” Chambers said. A woman brings her personal experiences, hopes, concerns, and objectives to that place, and utilises that context to make the extremely difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy if she chooses to do so, she added.
Because the teenage brain is still maturing, with impulse control being one of the last aspects of the brain to fully develop, Chambers believes that removing safe options may drive young girls to desperate, risky methods.
“They’ll figure it out — Google, YouTube, performing it on each other,” Smith said.
Chambers concurred, “Abortions will always be done.” “It’s about making it more difficult for disadvantaged patients — those who have a lower socioeconomic level, fewer health literacy, and less access to healthcare, including teenage girls who are still children.”