Everything Old is New Again... In Women’s Reproductive Health Issues

Houston Chronicle Friday, 1/20/12 pg A5  Associated News
  “CDC finds teens clueless about pregnancy”
              Study of thousands of teenage mothers who had unintended pregnancies: About 50% did not use birth control.  Of those who did not said they did not because they didn’t believe they could get pregnant. Study did not explore why they believed that.  Other studies however, found common reasons for believing they could not get pregnant to be: they thought the 1st time would not result in pregnancy, thought they were sterile, or that they could not get pregnant at that time of the month.

Shades of my youth!  I think the biggest misperception of my generation might have been that you couldn’t get pregnant unless you were married.  I actually knew better than that because I had a school friend confide in me that she was pregnant and couldn’t bear telling her Baptist parents.  Not long after, we were told she died from a “sudden illness.”  Truth is she killed herself.  I remember her telling me “It was just the one time.  I loved him, and he said if I did, I would.”  The boy went on with his life, her death not even a blip in his emotional landscape, although he dutifully attended her funeral.  As far as I know, her parents never knew she was pregnant, and he never admitted to sex with her.  I don’t know if she ever told him she was pregnant either.  Mind you, in those days,  most of us didn’t go on dates at 13-15 either.  Our “boyfriends” mostly walked us home, held our hands and maybe stole a kiss on the front porch before going home themselves.  Out of parental sight however, they pressured us for sex.  Or they had a girlfriend and pressured some other girl they’d never dream of “going with” for sex.  Someone less attractive, or poor, or shy, or emotionally vulnerable girl.

Only “bad girls” had sex before marriage in my generation.  On TV and in movies, married people slept in twin beds.  Single women slept in twin beds too, but alone.  Not sure single men slept at all! 

This article made me wonder:  if these girls know so little about getting pregnant, what do they know about being pregnant, about delivery, about parenting?  I like data, so here’s a little sobering data on young mother hood.

Ø  Even under optimal conditions, young mothers, especially those under age 17, are more likely than women in their 20s to suffer pregnancy-related complications and to die in childbirth 

Ø   The risk of death may be two to four times higher, depending upon the woman's health and socioeconomic status 

Ø   Young women face greater risks than older women of hypertension, cephalopelvic disproportion, iron-deficiency anemia, and unsafe abortion 

Ø  Untreated pregnancy-induced hypertension can cause heart failure or stroke and result in the death of both the mother and infant. Hypertension occurs most often among women having their first child and accounts for a large proportion of maternal deaths in women under age 20.

Ø  Young mothers, especially those under age 15, have higher rates of premature labor, spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, and low birth weight infants. 

 McCauley, A. P. and Salter, C. Meeting the Needs Of Young Adults. Population Reports, Series J, No. 41. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Population Information Program, October 1995.   http://www.k4health.org/pr/j41/j41print.shtml    

Some obvious qustions arise.
1. Why is any woman having an unsafe abortion?  The obvious answers are lack of access, whetrher finances, intimidation by anti-abortion groups, or legislation restricting abortion is responsible (or some combination of these) I don't know.  However, I would be interested in seeing the data on unsafe abortions broken down by race and income level.  If there is a racial impact, attacks and demonstrations in front of Planned Parenthood clinics, restrictions on Medicaid or county health service abortions might be seen as genocide -- sexist genocide at that.

2.  What role has "abstinence only" sex education played in this cluelessness about pregnancy?  Some reports online that I didn't paste here suggest that indeed religiosity plays a strong role in preventing proper pre-natal care. Abstinence only has not decreased the birth rates among teens taking such courses, and actually have increased STD transmission.  Perhaps the problem lays not in "enforcing morals" but in working toward full equality for women.

I cringed when Rick Santorum said that if he had a 15 year old daughter that he would not approve of an abortion, but would support her through the pregnancy and delivery.  OK, Rick, that's fine for your daughter who will probably get excellent pre-natal care, calcium supplements, and deliver at a first class hospital which might save her life if problems develop.  What about your grandchild's health?  Don't you care that he/she would face a higher risk of death, possible lifelong medical conditions?  Or will you just put it up for adoption and let some institution or adoptive parent cope with all of that fallout from your opposition to abortion for your daughter?  And what gives you the right to make that decision for other teenaged daughters?  Perhaps they would prefer NOT to see their daughter put her life at risk during delivery or their grandchild suffer from lifelong health conditions (and their daughter).  I would argue that opposition to abortion & contraception is sexist; only the mother (not the father) carries the risks: emotional, physical, financial, and social.

Teen girls have sex for a number of reasons:  pressure from a guy they believe they love, peer pressure from other girls who don't want to be the only one doing it, desperation to have or keep a boyfriend, rebellion against parents, feeling unloved at home and in general.  A surprising number of unwed mothers, in a study I read long ago, said they wanted a baby so "I'd have someone who loves me."  Not, in my opinion, an indicator of effective parenting!  What do all these reasons have in common?  A lack of self-esteem and insecurity that overwhelms whatever moral teaching they have.  Look at Bristol Palin                           

When sons are raised to realize that woman also have sexual desires and curiosity during their teen years but mature, rational men make the woman's life plans as important as their own, we may see further decilnes in teen pregnancies.  When men realize that women cope with their desires through sublimation or masturbation, perhaps men will also realize that just because you have the urge, sometimes you aren't going to get it assuaged, and it's emotional abuse to pressure women with your demands, exploit emotionally vulnerable young girls you wouldn't want to "be seen in public with" or date/marry, and to allow young women to have their health put at risk for the sake of indulging those urges, then perhaps women will have full inalienable rights.  Remember, God made Eve from Adam's RIB to walk BESIDE him, not from his tailbone to be SAT UPON or to FOLLOW!

Further Reading
http://www.webmd.com/baby/teen-pregnancy-medical-risks-and-realities  (Read the associated articles as well, especially on why teens have sex)Obstetric Risks of Pregnancy in Women Less Than 18 Years Old      JOLLY, M. C. MBBS, MRCOG; SEBIRE, N. MD; HARRIS, J.; ROBINSON, S. MD, FRCP; REGAN, L. MD, FRCOG  FREE article!
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Teenage Pregnancy?

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/179224-what-are-the-long-term-effects-of-teenage-pregnancy/#ixzz1kibUOabX 

M C McCormick, S Shapiro, and B Starfield (High-risk young mothers: infant mortality and morbidity in four areas in the United States, 1973-1978.). American Journal of Public Health January 1984: Vol. 74, No. 1, pp. 18-23.doi: 10.2105/AJPH.74.1.18
High-risk young mothers: infant mortality and morbidity in four areas in the United States, 1973-1978.M C McCormick, S Shapiro, and B Starfield The Hollywood Reporter How Elizabeth Taylor's 'Sexual Intensity' Helped Tear Down the Production Code 12:52 PM PDT 3/30/2011 by M.G. Lord


Infant Mortality Statistics from CDC    
BLACK INFANT MORTALITY    CHILD HEALTH USA 2011   Child marriage in America:a health risk      DR. LISA DANA    posted: 08/28/2011, 11:17 pm 
 The Children of Teen Parents.  Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Bone HealthFAMILY PLANNINGSAVES LIVES   The state of Roe V. Wade in 9 Charts

An Assessment of the Incidence of Maternal Mortality in the United States (1978)

Does legalizing abortion protect women’s health?  http://www.nrlc.org/UN/MMEnglsh.pdf    




02/01/2012 21:55

This is an article I've waited for for decades, Bob. Your thoughts are spot-on and provably accurate. My (step)granddaughter had a baby at 18 exactly because she "wanted someone to love her." Her mother had to drop out of college, but fortunately, that now-16-year-old just scored 2255 on her SAT. BTW, Texas ranks #1 in teen pregnancies and #50 in high-school graduation rates. See any correlation there?!


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