Majority Of U.S. Adults Believe States Must Provide Health-Related Support To Pregnant Teens And Their Babies

Recording artist Ciara performing at Times Square in New York City in honor of National Teen Pregnancy Awareness Month.
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A majority of American adults with children 18 or under strongly believe that their states have a larger role to play in providing health-related support to pregnant teens and their babies, according to a national survey carried out by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.

Teenage pregnancy is an issue that is usually difficult to handle for most teens and their families. According to the CDC, a total of 229,715 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years in the U.S. in 2015, a drop of 8 percent from the previous year. Birth rates in 2015 fell 9 percent and 7 percent for women aged 15–17 and 18–19, respectively. But, despite this drop, the teenage pregnancy rate in the U.S. is still substantially higher compared to other western industrialized countries.

Teenage pregnancy brings many challenges for the teen and her parents. Teens are usually at higher risk of giving birth to a premature baby. Many teens experience a variety of health issues, including fatigue, mood swings, etc., during pregnancy, which causes stress for the teen as well as her family. Sometimes, pregnant teens don’t receive the proper amount of nutrients, which causes further problems over the course of pregnancy. Parents also feel stress about the teen’s health, the cost of raising a baby, and the impact of early pregnancy on the teen’s future.

According to Michigan Health Lab, the new survey included a national sample of 2,005 adults with children aged 0 to 18. The participants were asked their views about the role of states in supporting pregnant teens and their babies. Most participants said they feel states should play a larger role in providing health-related support to pregnant teens.

Eighty-one percent of adults agreed that states providing support during teenage pregnancy would be a good investment for the better health of the baby. About five in 10 respondents said states should provide formula or car seats, while 42 percent felt that states should also provide baby supplies.

“Teen pregnancy can lead to unexpected challenges that many families may not be able to meet on their own,” said Sarah J. Clark, Associate Research Scientist at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“The adults we polled are parents themselves; they prioritize the health of the pregnant teen and the baby and recognize that the cost of raising a child is substantial. The majority agree that the state has a role in supporting pregnant teens but are hesitant about assigning broad responsibility to the state.”

According to the survey results, 56 percent of the participants agreed that parents of a pregnant teen should be financially responsible for the care of the teen and her baby. However, 30 percent believed religious and community groups should play a role in taking care of the pregnant teens.

Ninety percent of adults said states need to do more to ensure that baby’s father provides financial support to the pregnant teen. However, only 44 percent said their state should definitely provide legal assistance for paternity testing.

Most adults also agreed that pregnant teens must fulfill some conditions – for example, attending prenatal visits, taking parenting classes, drug testing, and graduating high school – to be eligible to receive support from the state.