Teenage pregnancy - information for young mothers
Finding you are pregnant when you're very young feels understandably daunting. It won't be easy to break the news to your family and there are difficult decisions to be made. But there is lots of advice available to you and if you decide to have your baby, plenty of support to help you build a good life together. So don't despair, speak to your doctor as soon as possible about your options and read on for more advice and information…
If you’re pregnant and in your teens, you’re probably experiencing mixed emotions. This is understandable but, even though you might be worried, you’re entitled to feel excited about having a baby too – if that’s what you want – so: congratulations.
And don’t worry. While it’s up to you to decide what you want to do, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. You have options and, whatever you choose, support is available to you. For now, if you’re displaying symptoms of pregnancy, the first thing you must do is go to see your doctor.
Think carefully about what you want to do (we know you will but it can’t be emphasised enough). As well as your doctor, talk to your family and friends. If possible, talk to your baby’s father about what you both want. This page is, for the most part, for young women who decide to have their babies. If you’re considering having an abortion, you should see the Family Planning Association website for more information, as well as talking to your doctor.
How do I tell my parents I’m pregnant?
This will obviously feel like a big step. How will your parents or guardians react to news of your pregnancy? Will they be pleased? Angry? Supportive? Whichever way you think they might react, one thing is probably true: they will not want you to be alone with this. Whatever you decide to do, they will want to support you.
If they react badly at first, don’t despair. It will be a shock for them and they might yet come around. We know, this isn’t ideal, as you need them now and you shouldn’t have to wait for them. Unfortunately, parents are often surprised and react in ways which they later regret, as demonstrated by one or two of the quotes from Mumsnetters at the bottom of this page. Your parents can find advice on Mumsnet on how to cope with the news of your pregnancy.It will be a big shock for your parents but it's not the end of the world. My daughter had a baby in her teens, so I’ve been there and now have a lovely 11-year-old grandson, but it's not easy.
What support is available outside my family?
After your pregnancy is confirmed by your doctor, you will be assigned a midwife who will help you through your pregnancy, providing advice and information at regular appointments, which usually begin with “booking in” at eight to 10 weeks. Following that you'll have regular appointments and scans throughout the pregnancy.
Your midwife will tell you about all the services available to you. But for now, here are some links to organisations that are full of experienced people who know what you’re going through and are equipped to help you:
- Family Nurse Partnership is an NHS organisation which provides specially trained nurses to visit mums aged 19 or under. The nurse will visit you regularly, in your home, throughout your pregnancy and until your child is aged two. FNP services are available across England. It aims to help you and your baby lead healthy lives and enable you to achieve your aspirations. You can contact the FNP yourself or ask your doctor or a teacher to put you in touch.
- Worth Talking About. If you want to talk to somebody in confidence about your pregnancy then you can do so on this helpline: 0300 123 2930.
- Brook. You can visit your nearest Brook service for free, confidential advice or use the Ask Brook text and web chat service from Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm.
- Talk. You can join an antenatal club on Mumsnet, with other women whose pregnancies coincide with yours. There are also Mumsnetters with specific knowledge of being a young mum. They share experiences and advice, so seek them out and don’t feel like you’re on your own.
Useful apps and publications
- The Young Woman’s Guide to Pregnancy. Previously available as 96-page book, all the information in this guide, published by the baby charity Tommy’s, is now available on their website. It includes information and advice from pregnancy experts and young mums.
- Baby Buddy. A free phone app from charity Best Beginnings. It offers advice for your pregnancy and the first six months of your baby’s life. Designed by professionals and parents, it is approved by the Department of Health.
- Mumsnet Pregnancy Tracker. Our app is designed for mums of all ages and tells you what to expect from week to week, as well as giving you ways to record big moments along the way, from the first scan to the first kick. It also puts you in touch with other pregnant women.
Teenage pregnancy is not the end
Having a baby will change your life – we don’t just mean the sleepless nights (perhaps there won’t be as many as you think), nappy changes or trying to persuade your little one to eat her mushy carrots instead of throwing them at you. We're talking about the love and bond that forms between a mum and her baby, which really is a life-changing feeling.
But just because your life changes, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dreams. Hold on to the passions that have always driven you, because that will help you make the best life for you and your baby.
Can teenage mothers continue in education?
Yes. It won't be easy, balancing studying with parenting, but support is available to young mums who want to stay in education at all levels:
If you’re still of school age then, by law, you must complete your schooling. Going to school while you’re pregnant will be challenging and there will be days when you just don’t want to be there – perhaps because you feel ill, anxious about the future or for any other reason. There might also be days when you're pleased to be out of the house and among friends.
You can take 18 weeks off to have your baby, although lots of mothers go back to school sooner. If you’re breastfeeding then you can always make arrangements, expressing milk for your baby to have while you’re at school is one option.
Further and higher education
If you’re in full-time education then the following financial assistance is available to you:
- Parents' Learning Allowance. A lump sum grant of just over £1617 a year (the figure is allocated based on your income) which you receive on top of your other student finance.
- Support from your university or college. Most universities and colleges provide financial assistance to students in difficulty. They have funds to help with financial emergencies or to cover fees and other course costs. Students with children are considered priority cases when it comes to allocating funds.
What childcare funding is available to teenage mums?
- Care to Learn. This scheme is for parents aged 20 or under who are studying in schools or colleges. It will help you with childcare costs while you study and is paid directly to your childcare provider. You could receive up to £160 per week per child (slightly more if you live in London).
- Childcare Grant. This allows you to claim back 85% of what you spend on childcare while studying, up to £148.75 per week if you have one child. Note that it’s a grant and not a loan. Find out more about eligibility and how you go about applying on the website.
Teenage mums and postnatal depression
Having a baby in your teens is probably not what you planned and, when you see your friends’ lives developing in ways that are different to yours, you can feel you like you’re alone. But you’re not alone. Around 50,000 women under 20 in the UK have babies every year. Sadly, around 40% of them suffer from postnatal depression (PND). Read up about the symptoms of PND and, if you feel you might be suffering from it, speak to your doctor.
Many teenage mums fear that, if they admit they’re suffering from PND, their doctor will report them to social services. This isn’t true and social services only intervene as a very last resort. Nobody wants to take your baby away from you. There is nothing to fear, and everything to gain, from telling people how you feel. If PND goes untreated, it can have damaging long-term effects on you and your baby.
Isolation is often a factor in PND amongst teenage mums, so you need to establish a support network – among your family, friends and, if possible, the baby’s father. Speak openly with your health visitor, make use of the support services mentioned above, and remember that, for women of all ages, having a baby can be a way to make friends.
Upsides to having a baby in your teens
- Friendship. Your relative closeness in age means you could be a friend to your child in ways that might not be possible if there were, say, 30 years between you. When she’s 16 and you’re 32, for example, you might like the same music and enjoy doing similar things. Glastonbury 2034, here we come?
- Empathy. When she’s a teenager you’ll be able to recall vividly what it was like and pass on useful advice. She’ll never be able to say: “Mum, you're too old to understand.” Although she will try.
- Energy. Where older parents might be a little tired, you’re full of energy and able to keep up with all the demands of parenthood – whether that’s running after her in the park or just facing the ups and downs of your everyday routine.
- Maturity. We’d never saying anything as patronising as, “It’ll be the making of you,” but having a baby as a teenager will make you grow up quickly. Too quickly? Perhaps, but then many of us look back and wince at our immaturity. Having a baby in your teens is an early introduction to the truth that life doesn’t always go exactly as we planned. That's a valuable lesson that everyone learns at some point.
- Grandparents. Your parents might think they’re a little young to be grandparents but once they meet your baby, it’s possible that they will take to the role. If that’s the case then your child might grow up surrounded by lots of people who love her and are available to her.
What Mumsnetters say about teenage pregnancy
“I'm a so-called young mother. I love being a mother. I don't care about age. Whether you’re 40 or 16, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're a good parent.”
“I wish my daughter had been a bit older when she got pregnant. It wasn't easy and, when she went back to school, I gave up work to look after my grandson. But looking back, years later, I really wouldn’t change anything."
“Every parent needs a thick skin, because of all the comments that we get. But judge a parent on their parenting skills and not on their age, wealth, or how they look.”
“My daughter getting pregnant is not in my top 10 list of things that I would hate to happen to her. There are far worse things, such as the two of us losing our relationship or drug addiction. Teen pregnancy would just take us on a slightly different course than we'd expected.”
“I wish I’d had someone to turn to when I was 14 and pregnant. My (now) husband was very supportive, and eventually my parents were very good, but it was horrible to begin with and my parents wouldn't even consider letting me keep the baby. Of course, fifteen years later, they don't remember that now.”
“My almost 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. She has always been challenging and the last year with her has been absolutely horrendous. She has a volatile relationship with her boyfriend. My husband and I were young parents ourselves. We've told her we'll support her whatever she decides.”