Teenage pregnancy affects all communities in our country
The topic is often discussed, and the focus is generally on prevention. While this is necessary, it does not address the reality that unintended pregnancies still happen every day, and most importantly – this approach does not answer the pregnant teenager’s question:
Some teens will have the benefit of strong, supportive families to fall back on. The family will tackle the issue together and help the pregnant teen to find her way. This is not the case for many young people.
An unplanned pregnancy is a traumatic and emotional event in a teenager’s life and often she is afraid to reach out for help and information. Teen pregnancy is very often portrayed as the ultimate disaster in a girl’s life, a tragedy that there is no coming back from. Fear – of stigma, fear for the future, fear of disappointing family and lack of information leads to any number of poor outcomes, including concealing the pregnancy or attempting unsafe or illegal abortions, all of which cause health and emotional complications.
Regardless of how well educated a teen may be, the emotional upheaval takes its toll, especially if she feels alone. She may be in denial and unwilling to accept the reality of the situation. She may simply not be aware of what her options are and how she can access them in practice.
Young Mom Support aims to arm teenagers with reliable, non-judgmental information and support – allowing the pregnant teen to TAKE CHARGE of her situation timeously and make safe, healthy and well-reasoned choices about her pregnancy.
Whether a pregnant teen ultimately chooses termination, adoption or parenting is a life-changing decision, and one which is often clouded by the opinions of family, community, school, partner and friends. She needs to feel empowered to make the right choice for HERSELF and be able to manage the consequences of that choice.
Parenting teens need support, not stigmatisation. They can and do succeed.
Shame never made anybody a better parent.
Stigmatising teen parents does nothing to prevent teen pregnancy.
Some of the most common questions asked about Young Mom Support
Aren’t you promoting teenage pregnancy?
Not at all. We know that teenage pregnancy is a reality, and there are as many reasons for unplanned pregnancy as there are pregnant teens. Reliable, non-judgmental and impartial information is crucial to better outcomes if pregnancy does occur. By relying solely on shame and stigma to prevent pregnancy, we alienate those who do become pregnant. A pregnant teen who feels alone and has nobody to turn to is at great risk. Terrified of having “failed”, of becoming “one of those girls”, her fear of rejection and punishment often means she will not seek medical attention, putting her life at risk, as well as increasing the chances that she’ll hide the pregnancy and possibly abandon her baby at birth.
Delaying medical attention also means that her options are limited: by the time she sees a doctor, it’s often too late for her to choose a termination, if that would have been her first choice.
In addition, for those teens who choose parenting, support and encouragement is crucial. A parent who feels valued and supported in their parenting will always do a better job than one who feels ostracised, judged and vilified. We as a society, either want every parent to succeed, or we want them to fail. If it’s the latter, then why? It’s a question we all need to ask ourselves.
Are you a faith-based organisation?
No, we are entirely secular and have no religious affiliation. Religion is often an important factor in a teen’s decision about her pregnancy and her faith should be a way to help her through it – we will encourage her to access the support of her religious community if she feels it will help. Staying non-religious means that we can reach more people – who might otherwise not want to reach out to an organisation based on religious principles that don’t match their own.
What is your position on abortion?
Safe, legal abortion is the right of every South African woman and we support this 100%. Teens will often be too afraid to access clinics and hospitals and may resort to unsafe / illegal abortions, with disastrous consequences. We pass no judgement on any woman’s choice regarding her pregnancy – ultimately, she is the only one who can make the decision for herself. We will provide the information she needs, and allow her to reach her own decision.
Should you rather not focus on abstinence / prevention instead?
There are many organisations doing important work in this field. We know that unintended pregnancy has always happened (although it may have been well-hidden) – and it will never go away. Our focus is on dealing with pregnancy once it has already happened, and providing real insight into the choices and decisions to be faced.
For the teen mother, a lecture on the abstinence she should have practiced is of absolutely no help at all. She is living in the real world, dealing with things as they are right now. There is every chance that she can succeed as a parent, and in her own right. Why would we not want to help make that happen?