Pregnancy Risks for Teens

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Harvard Medical School
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Pregnancy Risks for Teens

Sexual And Reproductive Health
Teen Pregnancy
Pregnancy Risks for Teens
Pregnancy Risks for Teens
Learn what puts a teen pregnancy at risk.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Risks for Pregnant Teens

As a pregnant teen-ager, you have a higher risk of:

  • Premature labor and/or delivery (going into labor before the baby is fully developed)
  • Anemia (low iron levels in your blood)
  • Preeclampsia (swelling, high blood pressure and protein in your urine)
  • Having a baby with a low birth weight (less than five and a half pounds)

To help prevent these problems for you and your baby, be sure to eat right, get enough calories in your diet, and gain the right amount of weight for your body type. This is not the time to worry about gaining weight. Do not smoke during pregnancy. Also, be sure to avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, and don't take over-the-counter medications unless you have discussed them first with your health care provider. Keep all of the regular checkups with your doctor, so he or she can make sure things are progressing well for you and the baby. It is important to know that you and your baby are growing normally.

Premature Labor

Labor that starts before your 37th week of pregnancy (three weeks before your due date) is called premature or early labor. It's important to know the signs of premature labor. Most babies born prematurely do well, but sometimes they have problems that can last for life, such as cerebral palsy or learning problems. Getting regular checkups, not smoking while you're pregnant, and letting your health care provider know if any of the following signs of labor are happening are the most important things you can do to help prevent having a premature baby. Call your doctor or health clinic right away if you have any of the following during your pregnancy:

  • Contractions: four or more in one hour, with or without pain
  • Low, dull backache, pressure or pain
  • Period-like cramps
  • Pressure in your pelvis that feels like the baby is pushing down
  • Cramps in your intestines, with or without diarrhea
  • Discharge from your vagina: any change from your usual discharge, especially if thick, watery or bloody
  • Decreased movements of the baby; if the baby seems to be moving less and you feel less than 10 movements in a 12-hour period


Preeclampsia (also called toxemia or pregnancy-related hypertension) is the development of swelling, high blood pressure and protein in your urine during pregnancy. Pregnant teens have a greater chance of developing preeclampsia during their pregnancy. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the hands or face when you get up in the morning
  • Quick weight gain (more than two pounds per week)
  • Headaches
  • Having less urine when you go to the bathroom
  • Feeling sick and/or throwing up
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in your eyesight (flashing lights in your eyes)
  • Pain in your lower belly

Though some swelling of the feet and ankles is normal during pregnancy, call your doctor if you notice swelling in your face or hands.

Low Birth Weight Babies

Teen mothers are much more likely to have low birth weight babies, which can result in serious medical problems, including underdeveloped organs leading to lung, vision, intestinal and other problems.

Smoking during pregnancy is the most common reason for a low birth weight baby and is one one of several habits that you need to control. Not eating right, not gaining enough weight and not taking regular multivitamins are some other reasons teen mothers have low birth weight babies. Drinking alcohol and taking certain drugs during pregnancy can also result in a low birth weight baby.


high blood pressure,urine,alcohol,health care,smoking
Last updated July 01, 2009

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