Teenage pregnancy rates have been trending down in most countries in the developed world since the early 1970’s. As education increases, availability of contraception becomes more accessible and societal norms shift, the number of teenage pregnancies per capita tends to go down.


As an illustration of this, New Zealand has typically had one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the developed world. Around 13 teenage girls in every 1,000 have a live birth each year.

Teenage pregnancies in New Zealand - 1960 to 2020
Teenage live births in New Zealand per 1000 women – 1960 to 2020

Of course, beyond the live births each year are a significant number of abortions and miscarriages among teenagers too.

The example pregnancy rate above is similar to that of England and Ireland, it’s a little higher in the United States, and some European countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Denmark are considerably lower.

Many people have theories as to why some pregnancy rates are so high, but it seems that there is no one conclusion. Different countries, with different cultures have a range of reasons.

Some factors that do appear to be universal among developed countries include social indicators, such as education rates, employment rates, welfare systems and housing. And over the last 20 years, as these social indicators have improved, so too has the teenage pregnancy rate come down.

While reasons for teenage pregnancy rates continue to be debated, there are definite trends, which highlight ‘at risk’ teenagers.

For instance, it’s widely acknowledged that children who were born to teenage parents are more likely to become teenage parents themselves, and that teenagers in lower socio-economic groups are also more at risk. In all developed countries, marginalised cultures have a higher rate of teen pregnancy. And for teenagers who fall outside of the ‘high risk’ groups, there are questions around sex education and even self-esteem that effect rates.

While no one can pinpoint exactly why some developed countries still have a high teenage pregnancy rate, what is agreed on is the effect that pregnancy and parenthood has on teenagers themselves.

Some of the main issues or problems faced by teenage parents include:

Teenage Pregnancy in Schools

Juggling study with parenting is difficult, no matter what the circumstance, but for teenagers who fall pregnant while still at school, even basic level education can be difficult to maintain.

While the introduction of teen parent’s schools has helped address this issue, teenage parents still suffer disruption to their education during pregnancy and in the months following their child’s birth.

In areas where there is no teen parent’s school available, education for teen parents is difficult, and while some continue their education through correspondence or other forms of distance learning, many simply drop out all together.

Reduced Earning Potential for Teenage Mothers

When teen parents eventually enter the workforce, their earning potential can be hindered by their disrupted education, and their apparent lack of work experience compared to other people the same age. This sets up a cycle of poverty or financial dependence.

Teenage mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and much more likely to experience material hardship. It’s been estimated that teen Mums will earn 10-15% less than teenagers who don’t have babies.

Teen Mums May be Less Emotionally Prepared for Parenting

Let’s face it – nobody is ever emotionally prepared for parenting, but teenagers are even more at risk.

For the most part, teenagers think the world revolves around them and are still learning to be responsible for themselves, let alone someone else. The sudden, and usually unplanned, responsibility of parenting forces them to mature faster than they naturally would, and the natural process of growing up is put into high gear.

In addition to the normal emotions that prospective parents feel, teenage parents have a rollercoaster of issues to deal with – particularly if the pregnancy is unplanned or they have little support.

Judgement from Parents and Family Members

Some teenage parents are lucky enough to have the support of their family, but this isn’t always the case. For some, judgement from their parents or family members means that they go through this difficult time with little, if any, support.

While older parents get to celebrate their pregnancy and the birth of a child, many teenage parents miss out on the celebration because they are busy ‘dealing with it’ or making the most of their ‘mistake’. This difference becomes more apparent the older the child gets too.

Teenage Mothers can Lose their Social Networks

Your teenage years are an important formative time of socialising and building friendships, but the responsibility of parenting means many teenage parents lose all social contact with most of their peers.

While friends may visit in the short term, the inability to just drop everything and go means that friendships change. Many teenage parents feel like they no longer fit in with their peers, but because of their age, they don’t fit in with other parents either. Teenage parent schools or support groups are a great resource for teenage parents to meet people in a similar situation.

Lack of Financial Security for Teenage Mothers

Becoming a parent while you are still a teenager means you haven’t had the chance to build any financial security or back-up for when the going gets tough.

Whether the teenage parent is on a benefit, or manages to find employment, they simply live week to week with little chance of getting ahead, and a very real risk of falling behind. This lack of financial security can cause a great deal of stress over time, and can end up impacting the child later in life.

Lack of Support from their Partner

Parents of all ages face the risk of an unsupportive partner, but for teenage parents the risk is even higher. Even if both the mother and father do take responsibility for the pregnancy, many of these relationships eventually end in separation.

There are specialist support groups for teen partners to try and prevent this scenario. But the fact is that many teenagers just aren’t mentally prepared for the stress of parenting.

Teenage Pregnancy Health Risks

Unfortunately teenage women face a whole range of extra risk factors when it comes to pregnancy.

Teenagers face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis and systemic infections than women aged 20–24 years. And their babies face extra risks too. Babies of teen mothers face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm birth and severe neonatal condition.

Final Thoughts

Teenage parents are a special group of people, with a unique set of issues and needs. While they may not have planned their pregnancy, most step up to the mark and make the most of their sudden twist in fate. Teen parents certainly don’t have age or wisdom on their side, but they do have determination, resourcefulness, and the same love for their child that any parent feels.

It is easy to judge teenage parents for their ‘mistake’, but it takes a strong and wise community to realise that children are a gift, no matter how old the parent may be. It really does take a village to raise a child.

Find out about Support for Teen Parents

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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Rashmibala Sahoo

Halo,

I had my period june 30 still it’s due. I got blood spot on day of my period. I thought it might be implantation bleeding so I got a kit n checked on my 6th day of missed period n I found it is negative. So what I will do now?? Do I’m pregnant??????? Or I should go for next test…..

Rashmibala Sahoo

Plz help me out. What to do???

Ian Johnson

This article states:
“about 50 teenage girls in every 1,000 falling pregnant”
This is incorrect. That was the rate at its peak in the 1970s. The rate is now about 16 (which is still high relative to other countries, but fully one third of what it was).

Alayna Flighty

Thanks for this, we have updated the article with new data. — Kiwi Families

hawna

im 17 years old and I have a baby girl who is now 2. I got pregnant when I was 15 years old to my boyfriend who was 16. I was in love and I thought that keeping the baby was the best idea for my daughter libby. I didn’t think about how it would effect me in the long run I was just to happy that me and my boyfriend were going to have a child and be a happy couple for ever. When libby was around 9 months old I could tell that by bf was having trouble… Read more »

Mama Bear

Nic says she had her baby age 14, and now own her own home at age 19?? um does the Bank own it and you and your boyfriend/are still paying for it? we thinks their parents helped a lot with $$ yo to get their first home, no one at 19 owns their own home in NZ, unless they got a very big loan, or rich parents to help. Don’t feel she has told all her story aright, as their are many pensions that are still paying their own homes off. Any way, no matter what age you may be… Read more »

Nic

Thankyou for thinking that i have rich parents & that no 19year old owns there own home. Poeple like you encourage me to succeed. I work hard every day, as does my partner to ensure that we maintain, and dont become negative people. Does the bank own your home? do you ask every person who has a mortgage if the bank owns their home? or Do they call the house there own even though they are still paying for it? Obviously yes we do have a mortgage but we call it our home, because when we pay off our mortgage… Read more »

Nic

I had my daughter at 14 years old, me and her father are still together & we own our own home. I am now currently 19years old, graduated public high school as a prefect (not a teen parent unit) and have a full time job making really good money, and my partner is a cabinet maker. I find that if you try hard enough and you put in alot of hard work and time it is possible to achieve the impossible. 🙂

Rochelle Gribble

What a fabulous story- thanks Nic! Sounds like you’re doing an amazing job 🙂

Rochelle

Penny

Great article. I was a teen Mum with no education and went on to have a successful career and am now working as a Coach to help other pregnant teens achieve their potential. It still saddens me that people are fixated on blaming people for why teenagers fall pregnant, what they need is people who don’t judge them and provide unconditional support. A new life is a blessing regardless of circumstance. I will always remember the excitement when my two older siblings had their children, when I was pregnant, I never heard the words congratulations, there was only disappointment. My… Read more »

Karl

My 15 year old son and 17 year old girlfriend have just let us all know that she is pregnant and wanting to have and keep the baby.. I hope that they can excel and be good parents but its hard for me to see it happening, all i can think of is how unfair it is to the baby, but hearing your story gives me hope. as it is the boy can’t even look after his bus card… They imagine its going to be all good, but really they have no idea or life experience.. you are probably one… Read more »

Sally @ Kiwi Families

Hi Karl. I posted a little bit of your story to our Facebook friends to see if anyone had a similar circumstance to talk about. We had some positive comments, you may like to check them out at https://www.facebook.com/kiwifamilies/posts/493786850679948. All the best for your son and his girlfriend, it’s not an easy situation but a lot of wonderful things can still come out of it.

Jaimee

I was also a teenage mother with no education and went on (as a solo parent) to get my Doctorate. I am now am in a period of life where my siblings and friends are having children, and I too remember back to when I was pregnant and the disappointment and lack of support I faced. My experiences made me resilient, even though being judged caused me pain. I always had in the back of my mind that whatever I did to educate myself, it would make our life better. I hope for a future where teenage parents aren’t stigmatised… Read more »

Rochelle Gribble

Thank you for that inspiring story, Jaimee! It’s wonderful to hear 🙂 Congratulations on your achievements!

I totally agree with the points you make and we hope that here at http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz, we can help to provide a little support to teen parents.

Steph

Are parents failing to properly educate these teenage girls about safe sex? Or better still abstinence and a little more self worth and dignity?

key

Or are parents failing to educate teen boys about respect and condoms, the sward falls both ways, as girls can not get pregnant on their own!!

Peter Wilton

Maybe there is just a long tradition of no sex education in New Zealand. Abstinence? In which century are you living Steph? Or in which country? Palin’s America? Sex is a normal part of life for which teenagers need to be prepared. Many New Zealand parents are not capable of it. Teenagers should be encouraged to enjoy sex responsibly.

Shazza

Hi Steph, I agree with you….am a parent of a 15 yr old beautiful virgin and totally proud of her…she tells me straight that she doesn’t want to be “had” by just any bloke and believes in abstinence…she is keen to get her doctorate…I’m a teacher and saddened by how people assume all teens are “doing it”. Nope, they’re not!!!! Some have morals, goals and want a better life for their children….when they’ve grown up themselves!! Good on all those who have achieved with children….I got married and am a solo parent and had to study with kids….not easy at… Read more »

K.

Just because a teenager is sexually active doesn’t mean that they don’t have morals or goals? It’s not about staying a virgin until marriage either, It’s about having the brains to be protected when you have sex. And just because a teenager is having sex doesn’t mean that their parents have failed to be a parent. I think everything you just said is highly judgmental, you are categorizing every teen that has sex as being irresponsible and lacking in morals, yet you say you don’t like it when people assume all teens are having sex that’s rather hypercritical don’t you… Read more »

Aria Anderson

“Enjoy sex responsibly”. Are you out of your mind. Teenagers are still kids who are getting prepared to face the society. They have already got a lot to process and you want to encourage them to have sex? I’m not suprised to say this, any male dog would say such a thing anyway. It’s all fun and games until you or your daughter end up in a situation like this. So haha to you

MJ Bouman

In my opinion it is the complete opposite. Teenagers as young as 12 are exposed to sex education and birth control options here in NZ…so much so that sex is actually considered completely normal at aged 16..I find it is glorified quite a lot in schools and in the media and the social peer pressure of ‘everyones doing so I wIll too’ is a big issue for teenagers. If you have a long line of incredibly fertile women in your family then chances are high that you are very fertile too. I conceived two children on the contraceptive pill….so contraception… Read more »

Fred

Thats sad :'(

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