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Ultrasound in pregnancy
Ultrasound in pregnancy

Adolescent pregnancy
Adolescent pregnancy

Ultrasound, normal fetus - abdomen measurements
Ultrasound, normal fetus - abdomen measurements

Ultrasound, normal fetus - arm and legs
Ultrasound, normal fetus - arm and legs

Ultrasound, normal placenta - Braxton Hicks
Ultrasound, normal placenta - Braxton Hicks

Ultrasound, normal fetus - face
Ultrasound, normal fetus - face

Ultrasound, normal fetus - femur measurement
Ultrasound, normal fetus - femur measurement

Ultrasound, normal fetus - foot
Ultrasound, normal fetus - foot

Ultrasound, normal fetus - head measurements
Ultrasound, normal fetus - head measurements

Ultrasound, normal fetus - heartbeat
Ultrasound, normal fetus - heartbeat

Ultrasound, normal fetus - heartbeat
Ultrasound, normal fetus - heartbeat

Ultrasound, normal fetus - arms and legs
Ultrasound, normal fetus - arms and legs

Ultrasound, normal relaxed placenta
Ultrasound, normal relaxed placenta

Ultrasound, normal fetus - profile view
Ultrasound, normal fetus - profile view

Ultrasound, normal fetus - spine and ribs
Ultrasound, normal fetus - spine and ribs

Ultrasound, color - normal umbilical cord
Ultrasound, color - normal umbilical cord

Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain
Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain


Adolescent pregnancy is pregnancy in girls age 19 or younger.

Alternative Names:

Teenage pregnancy; Pregnancy - teenage

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The rate of adolescent pregnancy has steadily declined since reaching an all-time high in 1990, mostly due to the increased use of condoms .

Since no form of contraception is completely effective, abstinence (not having sexual intercourse) is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy. A sexually active teenager who does not use contraception has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.

Why teenagers have sex, and do so without effective methods of contraception, is a topic of debate. Suggested reasons include:

  • Adolescents become sexually mature (and fertile) approximately 4 - 5 years before they reach emotional maturity.
  • Adolescents today are growing up in a culture in which peers, TV and movies, music, and magazines transmit subtle and obvious messages that unmarried sexual relationships (specifically those involving teenagers) are common, accepted, and even expected.
  • Education about responsible sexual behavior and specific, clear information about the consequences of sexual intercourse (including pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and psychosocial effects) are frequently not offered. Therefore, much of the "sex education" that adolescents receive filters through misinformed or uninformed peers.

When compared with other industrialized nations, the United States has the highest rates of pregnancy, abortion , and childbirth among teenagers, despite similar or higher rates of sexual activity in the other countries.

Teens are more likely to become pregnant if they:

  • Begin dating early (dating at age 12 is associated with a 91% chance of being sexually involved before age 19, and dating at age 13 is associated with a 56% probability of sexual involvement during adolescence)
  • Drop out of school
  • Grow up in poverty
  • Have a mother who was 19 or younger when she first gave birth
  • Have been a victim of sexual abuse or assault
  • Have no support system or few friends
  • Lack involvement in school, family, or community activities
  • Live in a community or attend a school where early childbearing is common and viewed as normal rather than as a cause for concern
  • Think they have little or no opportunity for success
  • Use alcohol and/or other drugs, including tobacco products


Pregnancy symptoms include:

Signs and tests:

The adolescent may or may not admit to being involved sexually. If the teen is pregnant, there are usually weight changes (usually a gain, but there may be a loss if nausea and vomiting are significant). Examination may show increased abdominal girth , and the health care provider may be able to feel the fundus (the top of the enlarged uterus).

Pelvic examination may reveal bluish or purple coloration of vaginal walls, bluish or purple coloration and softening of the cervix , and softening and enlargement of the uterus.


All options made available to the pregnant teen should be considered carefully.

Abortion is a potential option, but state laws vary regarding whether an unmarried teen can get an abortion legally without parental consent. In the case of married teens, the husband's consent may be required. Giving the infant up for adoption is another option.

The majority of pregnant teens choose to continue their pregnancies and keep their infants.

Early and adequate prenatal care, preferably through a program that specializes in teenage pregnancies, ensures a healthier baby. Pregnant teens should be strongly discouraged from smoking, alcohol use, and drug use, and they should be offered support to help them stop such behaviors.

Adequate nutrition must be encouraged through education and community resources. Appropriate exercise and adequate sleep should also be emphasized. Contraceptive information and services are important after delivery to prevent teens from becoming pregnant again.

Pregnant teens and those who have recently given birth should be encouraged and helped to remain in school or reenter educational programs that give them the skills to be better parents, and provide for their child financially and emotionally. Accessible and affordable child care is an important factor in teen mothers continuing school or entering the work force.

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

Having her first child during adolescence makes a woman more likely to have more children overall. Such women are also less likely to receive child support from the biological fathers, complete their education, and become independent and financially secure enough to provide for themselves and their children without outside assistance.

Married teen mothers are more likely to get divorced than are married women who postpone childbearing until their 20s.

Infants born to teenage mothers are at greater risk for developmental problems. Girls born to teen mothers are more likely to become teen mothers themselves, and boys born to teen mothers have a higher than average rate of being arrested and jailed.


Adolescent pregnancy is associated with higher rates of illness and death for both the mother and infant.

Pregnant teens are at much higher risk of dying or having serious medical complications such as:

Infants born to teens are 2 - 6 times more likely to have low birth weight than those born to mothers age 20 or older. Prematurity plays the greatest role in low birth weight, but intrauterine growth retardation (inadequate growth of the fetus during pregnancy) is also a factor.

Teen mothers are more likely to have unhealthy habits that place the infant at greater risk for inadequate growth, infection, or chemical dependence. The younger a mother is below age 20, the greater the risk of her infant dying during the first year of life.

It is very important for pregnant teens to have early and adequate prenatal care.

Calling your health care provider:

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of pregnancy.

Your health care provider can also provide counseling regarding birth control methods or pregnancy risk.


There are many different kinds of teen-pregnancy prevention programs.

Abstinence education programs encourage young people to postpone sexual activity until marriage, or until they are mature enough to handle sexual activity, and a potential pregnancy, in a responsible manner.

Knowledge-based programs focus on teaching adolescents about their bodies and their normal functions as well as provide detailed information about contraceptives.

Clinic-focused programs provide easier access to information, counseling by health care providers, and contraceptive services. Many of these programs are offered through school-based clinics.

Peer counseling programs typically involve older teens, who encourage other adolescents to resist peer and social pressures to become sexually involved. These programs tend to take a personal approach, helping teens understand their own risks. For teens who are already sexually active, peer counseling programs also provide negotiation skills for relationships and the information they need to get and successfully use contraceptives.


U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics: Overall Trends, Trends by Race and Ethnicity and State-by-State Information. New York, NY: The Alan Guttmacher Institute; 2004.

Review Date: 11/9/2007
Reviewed By: Peter Chen, M.D., Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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