The most common emotional reaction to the news of a teen pregnancy is disbelief, followed by denial. Denial by the teen prevents the early intervention of prenatal care, putting both mother and baby at risk of health related complications. In some instances, even if the pregnancy is acknowledged, there is denial regarding the need for lifestyle changes and the teen may continue to smoke, drink, take drugs and eat a junk food diet if this was their current lifestyle. Denial is a strong reaction to an unacceptable situation, and sometimes teens cope by pretending the situation is not happening. In extreme cases, teens have denied the pregnancy up until the time of delivery or immediately rejected the newborn, refusing to accept the reality that the child is theirs. In these cases, the assistance of a professional therapist is needed.
The emotion of fear is present in all teen pregnancies. Fear of what the future holds for the teen’s education and life’s dreams, fear of the responsibilities of being a parent before becoming an adult, and fear of the reactions of family members who will be disappointed and sometimes angry or even hostile. Sometimes, the teen is berated and humiliated at a time when they need emotional support. If support is not available through the family, the teen needs to find support outside of the home.
Guilt is a given. How many people will be impacted by the pregnancy? Some will be very vocal in letting the teen know how much the pregnancy has inconvenienced their lives. Religious guilt is common if the teen’s religious leaders judge them, and they are not forgiven by the religious community. Shame follows guilt closely. Shame is experienced by the stares and whispers from students at school and the disapproval of family and friends.
A feeling of helplessness comes from having to depend on others to help them through the pregnancy, to physically and financially care for them. Control over their life disappears as adults take over and they are repeatedly told they are too young to make good decisions and someone else makes them for them. Sometimes a pregnant teen agrees to a family’s wishes in order to please them and be in their good graces again. These wishes can involve adoption or abortion. If a teen feels pushed into these monumental decisions, she should speak to a counselor and be sure of her true feelings before acting.
Weight gain and body issues impact a pregnant teen’s self esteem. While friends are shopping at the mall for party clothes, she is relegated to the unattractive, matronly maternity section. If the teen is an athlete, as the pregnancy progresses, she will be unable to compete. Slowly, isolation from peers comes into play, further impacting already low self esteem.
The pregnant teen’s relationship with the teen father usually changes significantly as they become overwhelmed with the enormous responsibility facing them. They are no longer young students out having fun with their friends, they are facing adult challenges. The chances are great that their relationship as a couple will end, leaving another loss.
Add these emotions to the hormonal mood changes associated with pregnancy and without a good support system emotional problems could be lifelong. Every pregnant teen needs someone they can talk to, someone they can bring their problems to, someone to listen and someone on their side. The past is over. Hopesand dreams have changed, but not ended. There is a future and with help it can be a fulfilling one.