Update on Adolescent Pregnancy in the Black Community

Article excerpt

Abstract: Adolescent pregnancy is a social issue that severely jeopardizes the quality of life for young parents and their children. It is estimated that if fertility rates remain unchanged, the United States will see a 26% increase in the number of adolescent pregnancies and births due to an increase in the adolescent population (Henshaw, 1996). With a disproportional rate of Black adolescents becoming pregnant, there is a need to examine factors related to the high adolescent pregnancy rate among the Black community. Black adolescent mothers and their children face additional adverse psychosocial effects due to healthcare disparities, a higher incidence of health problems, and an increase risk of financial hardship (Hogan, Astone, & Kitagawa, 1985; J. V. Horn, 1998; Morgan, Chapar, & Fisher, 1995). Although the teenage pregnancy rate has declined, it is important for practitioners to continue to implement interventions that promote abstinence and increase contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents.

Keywords: Nursing, Black Adolescents, Pregnancy, Contraception

Although adolescent pregnancy rates have steadily declined in the United States, adolescent pregnancy continues to be a social problem that adversely affects parents, children, and society. Black adolescent pregnancy rates have declined 47.0% since 1991, however adolescent pregnancy continues to disproportionately affect Black adolescents more than white adolescents (Hamilton, Ventura, Martin, & Sutton, 2005). Black adolescent parents have a higher incidence of being from a lower socioeconomic status, being victims of healthcare disparities, and experiencing financial instability which can adversely effect raising a child (Hogan et al., 1985; Martyn, Hutchinson, & Martin, 2002). With the disproportional adolescent pregnancy rate among Blacks, there is a need to examine factors related to the higher rate of unintended pregnancies among this population.


Adolescent pregnancy contributes to higher complications for the pregnant adolescent and her unborn child. Some of the complications faced by pregnant adolescents stem from the fact that over 50% of pregnant adolescent do not receive prenatal care until the second trimester (CoIeMcCrew & Shore, 1991). Another 10% of adolescents do not initatite prenatal care until the third trimester (CoIeMcCrew & Shore, 1991). Receiving early prenatal care is lowest among Black adolescents (Martin, Hamilton, Sutton, Ventura, Menacker, & Munson, 2003). Pregnant adolescents are also more likely to have a higher incidence of complications, such as pregnancy induced hypertension, sexually transmitted dieases, poor weight gain, and placenta abruption (Adolescent Pregnancy-Current trends and issues: 1998, 1999; Cole-McCrew & Shore, 1991). Adolescent Black mothers are more likely to have poor weight gain during their pregnancy and almost twice the level of anemia as compared to white women (Martin et al., 2003). These adverse maternal outcomes contribute to a significantly higher rate of preterm births among Black infants as compared to infants from other racial groups (Martin et al., 2003).

Infants born to adolescent parents have a higher rate of complications that can lead to long term health problems (Hack, Flannery, Schluchter, Cartar, Borawski, & Klein, 2002). Neonatal death rates are three times higher among adolescent mothers than adult mothers (Adolescent Pregnancy-Current trends and issues: 1998, 1999). Health dispartites are especially prominent when examining neonatal death rates among Black versus White infants. The neonatal death rate for White babies was 5.7 per 1,000 live births in 2000 while the rate for Black infants was 14.0 (Centers for Disease Control, 2002). Babies of adolescent mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and suffer from low birth-weight (Morgan et al., 1995). These two complication place the child at a higher risk for neonatal death and morbidities, such as blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, chronic respiratory problems, and developmental delays (Morgan et al. …


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