Pregnancy can be one of the most difficult experiences a teenager faces. “Teen pregnancy” generally refers to a pregnant girl between the ages of 13 and 19. The CDC reports the average age for a woman to have her first menstrual cycle is 12.5 years, so pregnancy is certainly possible if puberty occurs prior to age 13. Teens often don’t get prenatal care soon enough, one of the many reasons pregnant teens and their babies are at higher risk of health problems than older pregnant women. Teens younger than age 15 are especially vulnerable to anemia, or low blood iron, and pregnancy-related high blood pressure.
High blood pressure: Pregnant teens have a higher risk of getting high blood pressure called pregnancy-induced hypertension than pregnant women in their 20s or 30s. They also have a higher risk of preeclampsia. This is a dangerous medical condition that combines high blood pressure with excess protein in the urine, swelling of a mother's hands and face, and organ damage.
Anemia: Anemia is a low concentration of hemoglobin in the blood, which can cause extreme tiredness and other complications. Approximately 14 percent of pregnant women develop anemia, and the condition occurs in higher rates in pregnant adolescents because of the insufficient amount of healthy caloric intake needed during pregnancy as well as the increased iron requirements associated with the expansion of the red cell mass during adolescence.
Premature birth: A full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. A baby that delivers before 37 weeks is a premature baby, or preemie. In some cases, premature labor that begins too early in pregnancy can be stopped by medication but some times the baby has to be delivered early for the health of the mother or infant. The earlier a baby is born, the more risk there is of respiratory, digestive, vision, cognitive, and other problems.
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