Infants born to teenage mothers are at increased risk for a number of health risks. These risks include the following:
- Teenage mothers are less likely to gain adequate weight during their pregnancy, leading to low birthweight. Low birthweight is associated with several infant and childhood disorders and a higher rate of infant mortality. Low-birthweight babies are more likely to have organs that are not fully developed, which can result in complications, such as bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, and intestinal problems.
- Teenage mothers have a higher rate of poor eating habits than older women and are less likely to take recommended daily prenatal multivitamins to maintain adequate nutrition during pregnancy. Teens also are more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or take drugs during pregnancy, which can cause health problems for the baby.
- Teenage mothers receive regular prenatal care less often than older women. Prenatal care is essential for monitoring the growth of the fetus and the health of the mother. During prenatal care, medical professionals provide important information about good nutrition and about other ways to ensure a healthy pregnancy. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), babies born to women who do not have regular prenatal care are 4 times more likely to die before the age of 1 year.
In addition to increased health risks, children born to teenage mothers are more likely to experience social, emotional, and other problems. These problems may include the following:
- Children born to teenage mothers are less likely to receive proper nutrition, health care, and cognitive and social stimulation. As a result, they are at risk for lower academic achievement.
- Children born to teenage mothers are at increased risk for abuse and neglect.
- Boys born to teenage mothers are 13 percent more likely to be incarcerated later in life.
- Girls born to teenage mothers are 22 percent more likely to become teenage mothers themselves.