Teenage pregnancy: your feelings as a parent
People feel many things when they hear their teenage child is going to become a parent.
You might feel shock, anger, disappointment and concern about your child’s future. There could be regret that you didn’t do enough to stop the pregnancy from happening. And you might wonder about what extended family members, friends and people at school and in your community will think.
On the other hand, you might think it’s wonderful and feel excited about becoming a grandparent.
You might also have mixed feelings . And your feelings might change over time, especially as the time of birth comes closer.
Your feelings are important, but during a teenage pregnancy, you might sometimes need to focus more on supporting your child.
When the time is right, starting a conversation about feelings that come up during the pregnancy can be good for your relationship with your child.
Your teenage child’s feelings about pregnancy
Your teenage child is probably going through some intense and mixed feelings about the pregnancy and the idea of becoming a parent.
If the pregnancy is planned, your child might be looking forward to parenthood. But if the pregnancy isn’t planned, your child might be worried about telling you and finding out how you feel. There’s also the worry about what extended family and other people will think, now and after the baby is born.
Young people who become parents often experience judgmental attitudes from peers at school and other people in their lives. If your child knows they can come to you for support, it might help with coping.
Your child might not know what kind of support will help during pregnancy. By saying something like ‘What can we do together to help you right now?’, you’re helping your child to think and talk about the support they need.
Encouraging your child to get support through the school’s wellbeing team is also a good idea.
Pregnant teenagers: pregnancy care and birth choices
Pregnant teenagers under 19 years need extra care in pregnancy and during parenting. They have special health concerns because their own bodies and brains are still growing and developing, and their emotions can be very mixed and fragile.
Early and regular antenatal care can help pregnant teenagers have healthy pregnancies.
Step 1: see your GP
Your teenage child needs to see a GP as soon as possible to confirm the pregnancy and to have some basic health checks.
A GP can also give your child options for antenatal care and birth.
Step 2: look into teen-specific antenatal care
Ask the GP and the local child and family health service whether there are any local antenatal services experienced in working with pregnant teenagers.
These services can understand your child’s special physical, emotional, financial and educational needs. They usually have teams of people to care for pregnant teenagers – doctors, midwives, social workers, dietitians, counsellors and mental health workers.
Step 3: look into antenatal classes
Antenatal classes are good for all parents-to-be. They give detailed information about labour, birth, breastfeeding, early parenting and support services.
Most hospitals have antenatal classes, and some hospitals have them especially for younger parents. If your child isn’t comfortable at birth classes, ask about other sessions or options. Sometimes school nurses are also midwives and can spend one-on-one time with teenagers at school.
Support and privacy: finding a balance
Legally, you might still be responsible for your child – but your child is going to be a parent. When your child talks privately with health professionals, it’s good practice for being responsible for the baby’s health later on.
Also, it might be a good idea if you, your child and your child’s partner can have an early conversation about how involved they want you and your child’s partner’s parents to be in antenatal care and birth. This can help you understand their needs and boundaries.
Your pregnant child will be going through many changes and feelings. Understanding pregnancy changes from week to week can help your child cope with what’s going on.
Healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle for teenage pregnancy
It might be tempting to tell your child what to do or what not to do. But it’s good for your child to feel that you think they can make good health decisions for themselves and their baby. If your child is worried about anything or doesn’t know what to do, you can suggest they talk to their pregnancy health professionals.
Healthy eating is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Good food supports the baby’s health and growth as well as your child’s. It’s also important for your child to avoid some foods and drinks.
If your child isn’t used to preparing their own meals or eating good food away from home, you can share some of your favourite healthy recipes. You can plan meals and go shopping together, which can also help your child with budgeting. You might even be able to spend some time together cooking.
Some community programs for young parents focus on healthy eating and run cooking classes.
Your child might be uncomfortable with the way their body looks and feels during pregnancy. But pregnancy is not the time to try to lose weight through dieting or intense exercise. This can be harmful for the baby.
Your child should avoid:
- skipping meals
- taking diet or weight-loss supplements
- taking nutritional supplements claiming to be healthy for weight loss
- taking natural remedies claiming to be healthy for weight loss
- starting an intense exercise regimen.
You can encourage your child to talk with a doctor or midwife about the physical changes of pregnancy.
Staying active can improve mood, fitness and sleep, boost energy and ease back pain. Along with healthy eating, physical activity during pregnancy might also reduce weight gain and diabetes. And it can help your pregnant child cope better during birth.
It’s good if your pregnant child checks with a midwife or doctor early in pregnancy about how much physical activity is OK. And if your child’s partner is pregnant, you can encourage your child and their partner to go for regular walks to keep up their physical fitness together.
Cutting out smoking, alcohol and other drugs
Most things that your pregnant child eats and drinks in pregnancy will pass through to the placenta and then to the baby.
Your child needs to stop smoking, drinking alcohol and taking non-prescribed drugs like marijuana, speed, ice, heroin and cocaine. These substances are all bad for your child’s health and the baby’s growth and development. If your child uses e-cigarettes, it’s best to avoid these too.
Your child should check with a doctor or midwife that any medicines they’re taking are safe for pregnancy. This includes prescribed medicines, herbal medicines, natural supplements and medicines from chemists and supermarkets.
If your child needs help to stop smoking, they can call Quitline on 137 848. And if you have concerns about your child’s substance use, talk to your child straight away and encourage your child to talk to the doctor, midwife or school nurse.
Some young parents can feel anxious, frustrated, angry or overwhelmed. Sometimes this can even lead to teenage violence in the home. If you notice your teenage child struggling with these feelings, you or your child can get help by calling the National Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service (1800RESPECT) on 1800 737 732. You can also get online counselling at 1800RESPECT.
Supporting pregnant teenagers and teenage parents to finish school
Education is the key to a positive future.
You and your child could talk together to a social worker, counsellor or your child’s antenatal team. This can help you find out more about education options and planning, as well as school programs that support young parents.
Your child might be able to get special consideration or extra time-out for medical appointments or poor health. A modified timetable can help some young parents-to-be. Some secondary schools have child care facilities.
When your child’s baby is born, you’ll be a grandparent. It might be good to think about what kind of grandparent you want to be and how big a role you want to play in raising your grandchild.
Services and support for parents and pregnant teenagers
The following services can help as you and your family go through this big life change.
Brave Foundation – this charity equips expecting and parenting teens with resources, referral and education opportunities to facilitate happy, healthy and skilled families over time.
- Phone: 0448 088 380
- Hours: 9 am-4 pm, Monday to Friday
- Phone: (02) 6287 3833
- Hours: 9 am-9 pm, Monday to Friday
- Phone: 1300 130 052 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 9 am-9 pm, Monday to Friday; 4 pm-9 pm, Saturday and Sunday
- Phone: 1300 301 300 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 8 am-10 pm, 7 days a week
- Phone: 1300 364 100 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Phone: 1300 808 178 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Phone: 132 289 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 8 am to midnight, 7 days a week
- Phone: (08) 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 (regional callers)
- Hours: 8 am-8 pm, 7 days a week
You can also call:
Our parent and family services article also lists links and resources that can help you.