Saturday, June 25, 2011

Teen Pregnancy

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I’m quite sure most of us came back to school in August thinking, “Dang! Some people had a very interesting summer.” I don’t know how it was for you guys, but every time I turned around I saw a new face, a new expecting mother. This article is not written to offend or criticize anyone, but it is meant to inform students of the risks and responsibilities of teen pregnancy.

Every year, nearly one million teen girls get pregnant. At first I thought that girls just “slipped up”, but after asking for the opinions of several students and staff members, I have learned that most teen pregnancies are planned. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, almost 60% of teen pregnancies are intended. Of that percentage, more than half of teen mothers cite emotional void as the reason they became pregnant. P.E. Instructor Sherry Jackson said, “Pregnancy at Thornridge High School is a competition to fill a void. Some girls are not receiving the love and attention they require and are therefore turning to pregnancy as a solution.”

Senior Jennifer Stazzone said, “In some situations, girls have kids because they want that feeling of being loved or they want someone to love. This happens because they may not get that kind of attention from their parents, and they feel like it’s them against the world. Girls also get pregnant to keep the guy they’re with.” Of the remaining teen mothers whose pregnancies are intended, 40% cite a desire to hold on to the baby’s father as the reason they got pregnant.

Fact #1 Sex won’t make him yours, and a baby won’t make him stay.

Not only does getting pregnant result in having a child, but it could result in medical problems including, but not limited to, poor weight gain, pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia, sexual transmitted diseases, and even death. It has been proven that teens experience a maternal death rate 1.5 times greater than that of mothers aged 20-24. Also, adolescent mothers tend to be at greater risk for obesity and hypertension than women who were not teenagers when they had their first child.

Furthermore, children born to teen mothers suffer from higher rates of low birth weight ands related health problems. Low birth rate raises the probabilities of infant death, blindness, deafness, chronic respiratory problems, mental retardation, mental illness, and cerebral palsy. In addition, low birth weight doubles the chances that a child will later be diagnosed as having dyslexia, hyperactivity, or other mental disabilities. Let’s do ourselves and our children a favor let’s wait. As teens and possibly future parents, we should think of the dangers we could put our children’s lives in if we decide to bring them into the world now.

Moreover, future prospects for teenagers decline significantly if they have a baby. Teen mothers are less likely to complete school and more likely to be single parents. Less than one-third of teens that begin their families before the age of 18 earn a high school diploma. As a result almost one-half of all teenage mothers and over three-fourths of unmarried teen mothers began receiving welfare within five years of the birth of their first child. Senior Ashley Lasenby feels that students should consider their futures before they decide to have unprotected or even protected sex with someone who isn’t guaranteed to be with them.

Fact # 2  There are a lot of good reasons to say “no, not yet.” Protecting your future is one of them.

40% of teen pregnancies are unintended and half of those end in abortion. As a teen, I am curious as to how we could subject ourselves to such situations. Some people think that it is due to the miseducation or lack of sex education we receive. I asked several students and teachers what we could do as a school to try to curb the increase in teen pregnancy. Sophomores Kermit and Chandler Collins said, “Teen pregnancy is a serious issue that is taken too lightly by teens. It needs to be addressed.” Other students suggested that we bring back “Jammin’ for Achievement,” the peer mentor program that ended in 2000, to provide guidance and direction to students.

“I think students need to hear about the risks of sex more than once. To hear it from other students who have been there and done that may be more effective,” said Bill Stockdale, math instructor. Programs like Demoiselle Femme are also helpful. Obviously that is not enough. Some staff members believe that the new advisory program may help because it will allow teachers to reach out to students.

When asked what we, as students, could do about the situation at hand there were different responses. Sophomores A.J. Burse and Jarrett Drake said, “Guys should practice abstinence, but if they don’t, then they should practice safe sex.” As we all should know, abstaining from sex is the only guarantee that we will not become parents at early ages. Some people think that it is not cool to be a virgin or to be celibate, but those people are jeopardizing their lives by putting themselves at the risk of catching AIDS and/or other STD’s and becoming teen parents. The truth is that less than half of all high school students have had sex.

“If you don’t feel that you’re mature enough to raise a child, then don’t have sex,” advised Jackie Thomas.

Fact # 3 Just because you think “everyone is doing it” doesn’t mean they are. Some are, some aren’t, and some are lying.”

Don’t think that only girls have to worry about parenthood. It takes two to make a baby, and guys, child support is a mother. Not ready to be someone’s father? It’s simple use protection every time or don’t have sex at all. Seniors D.A. Allen’s, Dion Coopwood’s, and Wavell Norman’s advice to guys “If you’re going to engage in sexual activity, be responsible and wear protection. Use latex condoms and not lambskin because lambskin does not prevent pregnancy or the transmission of STD’s.” When used properly, condoms coated with the spermicide nonoxynol- are 7% effective against pregnancy. Other birth control methods include, but are not limited to, the birth control pill, intrauterine device (IUD), Norplant (surgical implants), and Depo-Provera (a shot). If you think birth control “ruins the mood”, consider what a pregnancy test will do to it.

Fact #4 Thinking “it won’t happen to me” is stupid; if you don’t protect yourself, it probably will. Sex is serious. Make a plan.

Not only did I interview random teens, but I also interviewed teen parents. When asked what she thinks about teen pregnancy, senior mom Akilah Gross said, “It’s stupid. Being a teen mother is hard. I made a mistake and if I had it to do over, I would be wise about my decision to have sex.”

“If you don’t have the help that you need, then you’re in a world of trouble. I have my mom, my dad, my boyfriend, and the rest of my family helping me. Do whatever you can to avoid pregnancy. My best advice is to abstain from sex, but if you absolutely can’t, use protection, get on the pill, or do something,” advised Dominique Holcomb, a new mother.

Senior Fallon Gartley said, “The hardest part about being a teen mother is going to school and being there for my child at the same time. I advise teenagers to wait and make better decisions. You don’t want to be disappointed in yourself like I was.”

Expecting father Willie Gordon, junior, said, “Wait until you know what you’re doing. Sex is not worth it. Having a baby will be a big change in my life because I have to accept a whole lot of responsibilities.”

To all teen parents Hang in there! The odds are against you, but we have faith in you. As Thornridge students, we know that you have the potential to succeed. Parents like Akilah Gross and Sparkle Robinson are living proof of that. Both are graduating this year; Sparkle is going to Southern Illinois University; and Akilah is going to St. Xavier University in Chicago.

Sparkle’s advice to teen parents “Don’t listen to what other people say. They will try to bring you down, but don’t let them. Never give up and always stay on task. Don’t be a statistic. Prove everyone wrong by doing what you have to do and working ten times harder.”

People, the message is this You’re in charge of your own life. Whether or not you decide to have sex, remember to always use protection. Teen pregnancy is a serious issue that can affect our lives when we least expect it to. Plan your future wisely and be safe.

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