Help for Pregnant Teens

For the most part, teen birth rates in Washington County continue to decline, but the county ranks fourth highest in Maryland.* According to the March of Dimes, about three in 10 teenage girls become pregnant before the age of 20. Tia Fix, certified nurse midwife with Meritus Women’s Health Specialists-Robinwood, discusses how she and other midwives prepare teens for pregnancy and motherhood.

Preparing a teen for pregnancy

Some teenagers may eat a poor nutritional diet, and as a result, they may give birth to low-birth-rate babies. During the initial prenatal visit, Tia stresses the importance of eating less processed and fatty foods and more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and protein.

In addition to a medical examination and prenatal education, teen moms also meet with a care manager who discusses medical, educational and financial support such as the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHIP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Healthy Families of Washington County and other resources.

“I let my patients know that although this can be a scary time, it can also be a wonderful experience,” says Tia. She offers support and tells patients they can call her office any time of the day with questions or concerns.

Barriers to a healthy pregnancy

The biggest barrier to a healthy pregnancy is prenatal care. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, pregnant teens beginning prenatal care in the third trimester is associated with a twofold increase in the delivery of low-birth-weight infants. “In addition, late presentation to care in teenage patients is associated with decreased weight gain in pregnancy, birth defects and a higher incidence of anemia,” says Tia.

Fear of the unknown is a reason teen moms delay seeking medical care. “Pregnant teens and their partners are often afraid to tell their parents about the pregnancy because they’re afraid parents will tell them to give the baby up for adoption or ask them to move out,” says Tia.

In addition, the social factor, how a woman’s body changes physically, makes it difficult for teens to cope with pregnancy and seek medical care.

Resources during and after pregnancy

Pregnant teens who are patients of Meritus Women’s Health Specialists receive travel vouchers to help with transportation to and from medical appointments. In addition to introducing patients to community resources, care managers also recommend counseling to help teens adjust to the demands of pregnancy.

“Statistically speaking, teen parents are more likely to subject their children to abuse and neglect because they feel overwhelmed by their unfamiliar, ever-demanding roles as parents,” says Tia.

Every teen mom who is a patient at Meritus Medical Center’s family birthing center receives special attention from a social worker. Soon after delivery, social workers meet with moms to discuss shaken baby syndrome, postpartum depression and educational and financial resources in the community.

“Being pregnant is hard enough, but taking care of the baby can be even harder,” says Tia. She acknowledges that it can be difficult for patients to go from weekly medical appointments to the discontinuation of required appointments. “They lose that continuous support system,” says Tia.

To help patients transition from pregnancy to motherhood, Meritus Women’s Health Specialists offer a support group specific to new mothers that meets every Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the clinic’s waiting room. For more information, call 301-714-4100.