Against the Odds: Bright Futures for Pregnant Teens

AmeriHealth District of Columbia | 8/13/2014, 2 p.m.
Being a pregnant teen adds new worries, changes and challenges. But pregnant teens have the power to have a healthy ...

Being a teen is not always easy. Being a pregnant teen adds new worries, changes and challenges. Pregnant teens have more on their minds and more health risks than teens that are not pregnant. It can be scary. During and after pregnancy, it can be hard to finish school or find a job. But there are ways to help beat the odds. Pregnant teens have the power to have a healthy baby and make a bright future for themselves and their children.

Prenatal Care

Many teens try to hide their pregnancy until they begin showing. But hiding a pregnancy is not safe. Teens hiding a pregnancy may not get the prenatal (pre-nay-tol) care they need. It’s very important to get prenatal care during the first trimester (try-mess-ter). Since pregnancies can last 40 weeks, a trimester is 13 weeks long. So, before women are 13 weeks pregnant, they need to see their doctors. Their primary care provider (PCP) may suggest seeing a midwife or an OB/GYN for prenatal care.

“Getting care early is the best thing pregnant teens can do to care for themselves and their babies,” says Dr. Mark Fracasso, AmeriHealth DC medical director. “Prenatal care is so important. Prenatal visits to the doctor should begin as soon as the teen thinks she is pregnant.”

At the first prenatal visit, a doctor will test for health concerns. There will also be a lot of questions. Some questions may different from a usual well visit or make the teen feel uneasy. It is important to be honest with the doctor. PCPs may ask about abuse, drinking, and drug use. Being honest will help the doctor make the right decisions for the pregnant teen and baby. Teens and their caregivers should use this visit to ask questions.

Prenatal care should start as soon as the teen knows she is pregnant. It’s important to keep all appointments. This can help avoid health problems.

Staying Healthy for the Baby

During pregnancy, a woman’s health should be the number 1 concern. Healthy moms mean healthy babies. That’s because the mom’s health can directly affect the child. Staying healthy will lower the risk for birth problems and infant mortality (more-ta-li-tee, this means death or sickness). Along with prenatal appointments, here are some ways pregnant women can keep their babies healthy:

• Take prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins have more folic acid (fo-lick as-id) and iron than most other vitamins. Folic acid helps protect the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Iron supports growth and development. Take prenatal vitamins as directed.

• Maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet is important to pregnant teens and their babies. Eat a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables throughout pregnancy. Pregnant teens are eating for two, but that doesn’t mean to eat double. It means to eat healthy for the baby, and to get enough vitamins and nutrients to help the baby grow. Most pregnant women only need to eat 200 more calories a day. That is equal to a couple servings of fruit or a piece of whole grain toast with low fat peanut butter. Those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 are at a higher risk for problems during pregnancy. Pregnant teens should keep a healthy weight. A doctor will be able to give them tips if they are overweight or underweight.