It is estimated that around 1 million girls between 13 to 19 years become pregnant each year in the United States. The pregnancy outcome of teenagers is poor due to many factors. Teenagers are not mature enough to handle family and social pressure. They may be unmarried, financially dependent, may not have completed their education and may find it very difficult coping up being a mother.
The nutritional requirements of a teenager increase rapidly especially after menarche. Physiologically an average girl gets her first period around 12 years of age. If she gets pregnant by the time she is 15 years she may have poor nutritional status as the nutritional demand increases multifold with pregnancy.
Teenagers tend to have low pre pregnancy body weight for their height as compared to adult females. Clinical findings show that the rate of weight gain during pregnancy is less as compared to normal adults.
Many teenagers have poor eating habits in order to stay slim. This may lead to anemia, vitamin deficiencies, general weakness and increased susceptibility to infection. If such conditions persist during pregnancy, risk for the mother and baby becomes higher.
Getting pregnant during teens is a rising medical and nutritional problem in the United States and other parts of the world. Teenagers not only need to be educated about safe sex but also counseled about the risks involved in teenage pregnancy and its social repercussions.
Pregnant teenagers need to be educated about diet during pregnancy depending upon their age, level of education and socio economic status. For teenagers, approximately 28 to 40 lb of weight gain is recommended during pregnancy depending on their age. For this a energy and protein rich diet, vitamin and mineral supplements, balanced menu based on food guide pyramid, adequate fiber and fluids needs to be taken. Alcohol, smoking and drugs are strictly prohibited during this period.
If a pregnant teen gets optimal prenatal care, then the chances of premature birth, low birth weight infant and delivery complication decreases. Infant born has more chances of being healthy and free from frequent illnesses. Most importantly family support, care and a mature attitude is needed to tide over the difficulty faced by pregnant teenagers.