Teens Who Are Pregnant

General Information

Teenage pregnancy has long been conceptualized as a social problem requiring preventive efforts (e.g., Maynard, 1997). While preventing teen pregnancy has obvious benefits, it is certainly not always possible. Despite a recent decline in teenage pregnancies in Canada, there are still an estimated 40,000 teenage girls who become pregnant each year, resulting in an estimated 20,000 births (Statistics Canada, 2006). Being pregnant during adolescence poses a number of challenges. Compared to their non-pregnant peers, pregnant teens have low levels of education, as well as low expectations for education and the job market (; Singh, Darroch, & Frost, 2001). Pregnant teens also tend to have lower incomes (Al-Sahab et al., 2012). Research shows that youth living in poverty have a teen pregnancy rate five times the average (Stonehocker, 1997). Thus, socio-economic circumstances seem to play a major role in the rates of teen pregnancy. Due to these challenges, it is often difficult for young parents to remain in school and achieve success and security. As a result, it is vitally important to understand how you can support them during this challenging and life-changing time.

General Characteristics To Look For

There are various physical and emotional cues that can signal that a teen is pregnant, including

  • missed menstruation
  • a change in appetite and/or nausea brought on by certain foods
  • becoming emotionally unstable—mood swings, irritability, and/or depression
  • guarded and secretive behaviour
  • frequently using the restroom
  • complaining of fatigue, lower back aches, and a swollen abdomen
  • feelings of low self-esteem, stigmatization, and isolation
  • greater likelihood of physical and sexual abuse

Impact On Student Success

Becoming pregnant as an adolescent can have a major impact on student success—both during pregnancy and after the baby is born.

  • Pregnancy is the greatest single cause of female students dropping out of school. In addition, teenage fathers are also significantly less likely to complete high school than their non-parent peers. (
  • Pregnant teens are more likely to drop out of school due to feelings of stigmatization, lack of support from family members, school staff, and peers, physical and emotional strain, and the inability to keep up with or attend classes because of the need to stay home and care for the baby once he/she is born.
  • Dropping out of school greatly limits career opportunities for teenage parents and, as a result, many of these individuals and their children live in poverty (e.g., East, Reyes, & Horn, 2007).
  • Living in poverty also makes it difficult for teen parents to access childcare services, increasing the chances that these individuals will not be able to return to school.
  • Focus on each teen’s personal strengths and capabilities, and use that to empower him/her throughout this journey (e.g., what are their skills, talents, and/or personal goals?).
  • Reach out to a pregnant teen, especially if you are concerned for her safety and/or physical or mental health.
  • Connect teens to social groups, parenting programs, and support networks for pregnant teens and young mothers/fathers in their community.
  • Encourage young mothers/fathers to continue with their education, as this will help to ensure their future success and a more secure environment for them and their children.
  • Remember that teenage pregnancy is not always seen as a negative situation; some cultures are more accepting of it and/or view pregnancy as a natural and positive event for adolescents.
  • Keep in mind that pregnancy is a unique journey for everyone, and each individual’s feelings about it should be considered and respected, regardless of age.
  • Strong communication is a crucial part of providing pregnant teens with the support that they need in school. This encourages pregnant teens to go to a teacher with their concerns before they consider dropping out of school.
  • Many pregnant teens suffer from low self-esteem. You can help to reinforce a sense of self-worth in pregnant teens and new parents by telling them how great they are doing.
  • Be a good listener—teen mothers/fathers need someone to talk to. One of the most important things you can do is listen to their concerns and/or fears without judgment.
  • Pregnant teens are at risk of dropping out of school and not finishing their education, thus reducing their chances of achieving success and security in the future. Encourage them to continue with their education, and provide them with information on other study options, including online and/or evening courses, home schooling, and alternative schools.
  • Provide suppot and help pregnant teens to set goals for themselves for the near future, such as attending college or finding a good job.
  • Help teens connect to subsidized daycare programs in their community; this type of support can encourage them to return to school.
  • Work with community partners and family to provide support for teens.
  • Provide schooling that is flexible and accommodating to the unique needs of teen mothers and fathers, both during and after pregnancy. In order for teens to reach the goal of graduation, schools need to provide education that is flexible in an environment that promotes success. School policies and practices should include flexible scheduling and crediting, flexible attendance policies, and access to alternative education options that allow students to earn credits in varying ways (e.g., online, home study, or night school).
  • Support daycare options.
  • Take time to process the news that your teen is pregnant, and find someone to talk to about your feelings. You will be better equipped to face the journey ahead and provide support to your teen.
  • Active listening and open communication are extremely important—be sure to listen to their concerns, and allow them to express themselves without judgment. Communicate openly and honestly, and remember to be positive, supportive, and respectful.
  • Encourage your teen to use community resources, such as attending prenatal classes or joining a support group, and consider joining with them—the supportive environment will be beneficial to everyone involved.
  • Praise their achievements and help to increase feelings of self-esteem—for instance, tell your son/daughter how proud you are of their continued dedication at school.
  • Remind them that they are not alone on this journey. Provide as much comfort and support as possible—he/she may be feeling stigmatized and alone
  • Provide information and support to school staff and administrators in order to help them with teen pregnancy.
  • Keep schools informed of community initiatives relating to teen pregnancy, including local support groups, information sessions and workshops, and education opportunities both pre- and post-pregnancy.
  • Consider a partnership with schools in order to provide free or low-cost essential services, such as daycare.