You might be pregnant if...

one or more of the following symptoms arises within a week after unprotected sexual intercourse...

  • You miss a period or have an abnormally light period. Note you could also miss a period if you have just started menstruating, are not eating properly or are under lots of stress.
  • You notice a sudden change in your breasts...
  • Increased heaviness
  • Increased tenderness
  • A tingling feeling
  • Increase in size
  • Darkening of the areola
  • Note breasts can normally become swollen and tender just prior to a period.
  • You feel tired all the time. This could also be caused by improper diet, lack of exercise and stress.
  • You vomit or feel nauseous especially as you get out of bed in the morning (morning sickness)
  • A change in your taste or smell, such as a metallic taste in your mouth
  • A new craving or dislike for certain foods, drinks or smells
  • You feel emotional, easily upset, or burst into tears for no apparent reason
  • You need to urinate more frequently
  • You experience a heavier vaginal discharge

If you have had unprotected sex in the past and exhibit these symptoms take a home pregnancy test using the first urination of the day. If you are pregnant, stop smoking and drinking immediately and see a physician.

Home pregnancy tests...

You can use a home pregnancy test before you see a physician to give yourself a good idea of what you will find out, but make sure you do see a physician since home pregnancy tests are not 100% accurate. If you are pregnant you need to take immediate action. If you plan to have an abortion you need to do it as soon as possible Ð once an embryo has reached a certain age (12 weeks), many clinics will refuse to perform the procedure. Certain states have made abortions illegal after the fetus has reached a certain age. If you plan to carry the baby to term you need to make certain changes in your habits to ensure your health and that of the baby, like immediately quitting alcohol, smoking or other drugs.

Visit a physician

1/3 of pregnant teens receive inadequate prenatal care, because they can't afford it or aren't aware of its importance. Regular diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound or diabetes testing reduce the risk of complications. Teens with adequate health care are very likely to have a successful pregnancy and a quick recovery from labor and delivery. Babies of young mothers are less likely to develop birth defects. However, because of inadequate health care, babies born to young mothers have been more likely to have a low-birth-weight, to have childhood health problems and to be hospitalized than those born to older mothers. You can reduce the risk of these problems by visiting a physician immediately. The physician will check the uterus for an increase in size and firmness and check your cervix for a bluish hue. They will run a pregnancy test and discuss with you your options and what you need to do next. You can visit...

  • Your doctor
  • Your school clinic
  • A clinic
  • Planned parenthood (1-800-230-PLAN for the nearest clinic)

Your options...

When deciding between abortion, adoption, and motherhood, you should knowÉ Most teens aren't emotionally or financially prepared for motherhood. BUT a woman in her late teens is actually at her peak physical condition for having a successful pregnancy. Women in their late teens are highly fertile, in relatively good physical condition, and have a higher supply of energy. However, babies cared for by their younger mothers are more likely to develop emotional problems. Possible reasons for this include...

Being placed for adoption too late and long after delivery once a mother realizes the difficulty of raising a child.

The inability of a single teen mother to both financially support the baby and spend the necessary bonding time with the child.

The absence of a father, or a father that doesn't stick around.

Keep the baby. Marry the father.
This is no guarantee that you and the father will be together forever. In fact, most teen marriages end in divorce. You could have a better chance if you both were already planning to marry each other before the baby was conceived, if you both have finished high school and if you both have reached a high level of maturity and commitment toward each other. Either way you have to realistically evaluate your situation. Do you and the father have a high school diploma. If the father does not, he will have to work incredibly hard to support his new family. This can be an overwhelming stress for a man in his teens. Marriage alone can be too much pressure for men to think about well into their late 20's. Having children can be an overwhelming financial responsibility even with a solid job and education. If you don't have a high school diploma and your marriage ends in divorce, which is statistically most likely to occur, you will be a single parent. (See below)

Keep the baby. Raise it yourself.
As a single parent you will spend the next 22 years supporting yourself and your child. Children of pregnant teens are more likely to become pregnant teens themselves, so you can expect to help raise your child's child as well. If you don't have help you will have to attempt to work, take care of a child, finish high school and fight to get off welfare, which can be next to impossible. Parents or relatives might step in to help. Remember they already invested 20 years of their life to raise you. By deciding to raise the child and being unable to support it alone, you are forcing them into a decision that is very difficult for them to ignore or refuse. They've earned their freedom to live their remaining days attending to their own needs and goals. But how can they turn down their child in need. This puts a lot of pressure on families of pregnant teens. Not only will you lose your freedom due to your motherly responsibilities to the child, but your independence from your parents will be postponed as well. Let's say it works out. Your parents help take care of the child while you go to school. Everyday you come home and manage to care for your child and finish your homework. You achieve an education that enables you to support your child on your own. How has the child been effected? First of all, The child will be passed back and forth every day, as it is taken from you when you go to school and sees you during your time at home. You are its only parent. However, it is often cared for by someone else. In addition, it doesn't have a father. Fathers are important. Unfortunately not everyone has first hand knowledge as to why, often because they themselves didn't have a father throughout growing up. The following facts speak for themselves...

  • In 1996, young children of single mothers were 10 times as likely to live in poverty.
  • Children without fathers are at a much higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Children living apart from their fathers are 4.3 times more likely to smoke.
  • Children in single parent families are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems.
  • Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.
  • 3 out or 4 teen suicides occur in households where a parent has been absent.
  • Fatherless children are more likely to commit criminal acts

Children growing up in a single-mother household have no way of knowing first hand what the role or value of a father is. This can encourage girls to believe they can single-handedly take care of an entire family. It can cause girls to limit the value they place on their husband and the father of their child. It can cause guys to devalue their own role as a father and husband. It can limit a guy's understanding as to what their role is. Of course, there are children of single families that are excellent spouses or parents. However, if you were raised in a single family home, you may want to consider investigating the value of having two parents.

Place the baby up for adoption
Placing a baby up for adoption is a wonderful choice. You give both you and your baby a chance to live a happy life. Your baby enters a loving family that is both extremely willing and able to offer the child the love and support he/she needs. It will be difficult to give the baby up, but the gift you're giving the baby should help fill any grief with relief. If you decide to place the baby up for adoption do it before it's born or at the time of birth. Trying to raise the baby and realizing you are unable to care for it can be devastating to a child's life. The trauma of being taken from its mother once you've developed a bond will be emotionally damaging. The longer you wait before placing the baby up for adoption, the less likely it is for the baby to find a home. Today there are open adoption programs, which allow you to select parents for your child. Depending on the program you may be able to receive updates on your child's progress, or you may even be able to have contact with the child.

As mentioned before, most teens aren't emotionally or financially prepared for motherhood. BUT a woman in her late teens is actually at her peak physical condition for having a successful pregnancy. Women in their late teens are highly fertile, in relatively good physical condition, have a higher supply of energy and are least likely to have a child with a birth defect.

Teens that have put a baby up for adoption immediately after birth, usually believe they've made a good choice. Quotes from these women include... "For me, I know I did the right thing." and "It's a peaceful decision."

Have an Abortion
If after the abortion you experience long-lasting depression or other negative feelings, and have difficulty discussing these feelings with those close to you, consult a therapist...

Taking care of your baby by taking care of yourself

Visit your doctor or clinic as soon as you suspect you might be pregnant and continue to see your doctor on a regular basis to monitor your health and that of your baby. If you are between 18 and 35 you can count on visiting your doctor according to the following schedule. If you are younger than 18 you may need to see your doctor more often.

  • Once a month the first 7 months
  • Once every 2 to 3 weeks during month 8
  • Once a week from during month 9 until delivery

Do not take any drugs, not even aspirin, without asking your physician first. Many drugs can severely harm your baby's health, especially when taken during the early months of pregnancy.

Don't smoke. Smoking can kill your baby or cause physical and/or mental handicaps.

Don't drink alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, characterized by impaired vision, impaired hearing, severe facial abnormalities, abnormal spinal curvature, lack of coordination, and behavioral problems.

Eat a healthy balanced diet, containing all the food groups to give your baby all the nutrients it needs. Take any vitamins your doctor recommends, including iron.

Exercise regularly.

Report abnormal symptoms such as sudden weight gain, bleeding, blurred vision, severe headaches, and swelling of the face or limbs.

Labor & Delivery

What next?
As a teen, you are probably not married. You must ask yourself if you want to raise a child without a father. If you're considering marrying the father, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons, namely those that would have existed whether or not you had a baby. For a long lasting happy marriage, make sure your relationship includes the following...

  • A mutual love and understanding
  • A readiness to support a child and an unwavering commitment to each other
  • Compatibility
  • Genuinely nice giving personalities
  • Similar interests, goals and life plans
  • The ability to enjoy being together no matter where you are or what you're doing.

Thank you sir. May I have another
1/4 of teenage mothers have a second child within 2 years of their first. Before you join this group make sure you have the resources to take care of two children for the next 2 years. Make sure your children will have a committed mother and father with a good relationship. IF you are a single parent, consider what it will takeÉ working 2 jobs, sending your child to day care, having your child taken care of by someone other than his mother while you're at work, etc. Consider not having a supportive spouse when you need someone to lean on, because the stress has become too much and you can't remember the last time you had a life of your own. As in pregnancy, the life of a single mom always comes second to that of your child, because your child simply cannot live without your constant attention and financial support. Don't trust any man who says he'll be there for you if he hasn't put a ring on your finger already. Moving in with you is also a false sense of security. The majority of couples that live together before marriage never get married.

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Related Info

For adoption info contact the National Adoption Center at 1-800-862-3678 or nac.adopt.org.

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