Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘Teenage Pregnancy’ Category

Teenage pregnancy is something that I have already written about, see my blog on 1st January

Tonight the subject was re-visited by Channel 4 in the programme The Hospital the programme claimed to explore the cost of teenage mothers to an already stretched health service.

The programme states that 46,000 pregnant teens registered in the UK last year – the highest number in Europe – and questioning whether young people fail to take responsibility for their own health; and asks can the NHS afford to maintain its founding principle of free healthcare at the point of delivery?  The programme was filmed at City Hospital in Birmingham where 10 new pregnant teenage girls register at the maternity unit each week.

Whilst fully acknowledging the difficulties faced by both staff and these young women the programme really raised the question of “informed consent” for me.  Whilst it was true that one of the young women did get her wish to have a general anaesthetic for her caesarean (against medical advice) I was left feeling that these young women were short changed when for example the staff told the young women “we are going to do induce you with a tablet”.  I appreciate that the film may have been edited but it did leave me with the feeling that these women were not active partners in their care.

Of course, for me as an Independent Midwife and having the luxury of additional time it is easy to be critical of an NHS system which is stretched to the limits, but it did strike me as a missed opportunity to involve the young women in the decision making.  I also felt that there were some sweeping statements, for example although many of these women were at increased risks during their pregnancy, I do not believe that age alone is a risk factor.  Many young women will have healthy pregnancies and will progress to have normal births – I believe that late teens/early twenties can be a physically good time to have a baby providing that the couple are emotionally and financially ready.

Again, I have been quiet, there is so much that I could comment about, but I think it will have to wait until tomorrow!  There has been the thirteen year old who has fathered a baby to his fifteen year old girlfriend; there is the story of Salma Hayek the Mexican actress who breastfed a baby in Sierra Leone (there is lots I’d like to write about that).

Briefly, I haven’t much changed my opinions of Teenage Pregnancy since my posting “Baby abandoned in Bedford – Teenage Pregnancy” on 11th January 2009.  I honestly believe that many young people make excellent parents, indeed I saw a very responsible couple on television whose baby was born when they were just sixteen, but equally I am very aware of the cycle of deprivation that often exists, and this young father is only a child himself … I hope they get the support they will need.

The reason for my absence from The Blog is because I am involved in the “Tots to Teens Exhibition” which is currently taking place in Middleton Hall, The Centre: MK, Milton Keynes.  Tomorrow (Sunday) is the final day of this Exhibition – it has been quite successful, with stalls as diverse as St John’s Ambulance who are promoting first aid training, to photography by Kate Everall (and others), bedroom murals by Charlotte Designs to baby swimming classes and much more besides.  We have been busily speaking to couples who are considering a family, pregnant or who have small children.  It was particularly pleasing to have a couple come up to me today who I had met a few months ago at a similar Exhibition – we had discussed the options for their birth and talked about homebirth and the couple had gone on to have a lovely homebirth (their first baby) and had come to thank me for the information.  That really makes me feel good about what I do, and makes me realise how important it is to be visible as a midwife, and available for couples to speak to.

If you hurry, you can still catch the Exhibition which closes at 5pm tomorrow, Sunday 15th February.  If you miss this one, I am co-hosting another Antenatal Exhibition on Sunday 8th March at The Guildhall, Church of Christ the Cornerstone, Central Milton Keynes (opposite Marks and Spencer) between 2pm – 4.30pm – see for more details.

This week a young woman in Bedford abandoned her newborn baby in a park in freezing conditions, fortunately the baby was found and taken to hospital where she is now doing well; the mother has also come forward and is receiving medical care and support from social services.

How very sad that this young woman felt it necessary to leave her brand new daughter – she must have been confused and terrified.  The police have stated that “they deal with these cases with sensitivity and are unlikely to prosecute”.  There will, of course, be many who feel anger and incomprehension over this young woman’s actions, but I also believe that we should feel sadness and pity because she almost certainly will have felt unsupported.  I wish her and her baby well.

Teenage Pregnancy has, in recent years, become a modern “folk devil”.  Frequent articles have appeared in the tabloid newspapers berating the fact that young, single mothers were able to obtain council flats or houses because they had a child, and sometimes went as far as to suggest that young women had children in order to obtain a home.

Television programmes alerted us to the “problems” that teenage mothers would cause to society.  Young mothers “scrounging” from the state, not working, uneducated, taking state benefits, houses, producing juvenile delinquents and children who would then go on and repeat the cycle by having children at a young age themselves.

Britain has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe and our Government has spent vast sums of money in trying to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, and although our Office of National Statistics figures do show a small downturn in the number of Teenage pregnancies, the statistics are not good and I would argue that we as a society need to re-think our attitudes and strategies for sex education.

There appears to be an irrefutable link between deprivation and unplanned pregnancy, there are potentially many reasons for this trend.  It has been suggested that young people who have grown up in unhappy circumstances may desire to create a ‘new’ family of their own, with the genuine desire to ‘do better’ themselves (although of course the failure rate is high).  Young women speak of ‘having a baby of heir own to love, and be loved by’, perhaps trying to create something lacking in their lives.

Alcohol and drug abuse may also be implicated in unplanned pregnancy, this may result in abortion for more highly educated teenagers, but teenagers from poorer areas are much less likely to have an abortion.

It should not be forgotten that, for some, pregnancy is a planned, or semi-planned occurrence and it should be remembered that young parents can make excellent parents particularly given family support.

Young women may also face additional medical complications associated with pregnancy, but at the same time by late teens/early twenties a woman is also perhaps in her childbearing prime.

As a Registered Midwife, I am always happy to be contacted about any pregnancy related issues and am always willing to speak confidentially by telephone