Expectant teenage mothers are at risk for experiencing complications during pregnancy that can cause health issues for both mother and child. A lack of physical readiness for pregnancy, combined with risky lifestyle choices such as smoking and drug abuse, increase the chance of complications. Teens can increase the possibility of having a healthy pregnancy, and reduce possible complications, by seeking early prenatal care and following a healthy lifestyle, according to the March of Dimes.
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Low Birth Weight
Babies born to teenage mothers often have low birth weight, with babies born to mothers under 15 years of age being most at risk. Low birth weight ranges from 3.5 pounds to 5.5 pounds. Poor eating habits are common among teenagers, which may result in low pregnancy weight gain and poor nutrition. Smoking, drug abuse and other complication of pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, can facilitate low infant birth weight as well.
Teenage mothers face the possibility of premature labor, or labor that starts before 37 weeks gestation. Physically, teenage mothers have immature reproductive organs that may not be prepared to carry an infant to term. The Journal of Perinatology noted in a 2002 study that an immature cervix and metabolic system play a role in causing preterm birth in teen moms. Sexually transmitted diseases and smoking also increase the risk of preterm labor and birth.
High Blood Pressure
The increased demand for blood flow during pregnancy can place strain on a teenage mother’s undeveloped cardiovascular system, which can be unprepared to handle the extra circulatory load. High blood pressure, also called pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH), can develop as a result. Even with treatment, PIH can develop into a more serious condition called preeclampsia, which is a combination of high blood pressure, swelling of the hands, face and feet and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia and PIH can both result in reduced fetal birth weight and growth and place the mother at risk of cardiac complications during pregnancy.
Iron is an important nutrient for healthy red blood cells. Blood that is low in iron is not as effective at circulating oxygen-rich blood to body tissues and organs. Pregnancy places an extra demand on the body to circulate blood to the developing placenta and baby and can rob the cells of iron. Combined with a diet poor in iron-rich foods, which is common among teens, anemia (low iron) can result. Anemia can be treated during pregnancy by consuming iron-rich foods or iron supplements as needed.