Minors who get pregnant in our country are only 1% of the total number of women who give birth (but they would be about double if we consider the IVG – voluntary interruptions of pregnancy). However, these numbers are nothing compared to England and the United States, where they stand at around 10%.
According to specific studies that are not yet so widespread even in Italy, it seems that the phenomenon is attributable, among other things, to the high rate of divorces, the increase in abuse and rape of very young girls, the recent “fashion” of considering the baby as a status symbol.
But in the last year, according to data from the “Save the Children” organization, the numbers have also increased enormously in our country, with peaks above all in Sicily and Campania (71% in Southern Italy), followed by Lombardy.
Sexual relationships are increasingly precocious in today’s society (average age 15 years), compared to the past boys and girls reach sexual maturity earlier than psycho-social and emotional maturity , and are therefore unable to take responsibility for the related consequences their behavior, such as sexually transmitted diseases and / or contraception.
In reality, they would not lack adequate information, or could in any case access it easily thanks to the media and special educational programs, but the still infantile aspects of their personality, combined with a natural and typical dose of unconsciousness, cause them to run frequent risks to become parents without having the cognitive or practical skills.
Furthermore, it is found that most of these adolescents come from disadvantaged social classes , from dysfunctional families with few emotional references, with a history of neglect and / or abuse, with economic problems and poor education, and are often the daughters of single teenage mothers.
For many girls, who grew up in difficult environments, having a child means taking on a role, being recognized as a figure and finding an identity; it is the first opportunity to feel important in their life.
In most cases (3 out of 4 adolescents) they declare that they have neither planned nor wanted the pregnancy; in reality then, almost always, they choose to keep the child, although this involves serious problems on a personal, family and social level.
The pregnant young woman can experience this period as highly traumatic due to a whole series of factors, first of all those strictly physical (discomfort, nausea, changes in physical appearance, etc.) and health (gynecological visits, examinations, therapies …), as well as discomfort in the family and in society (finding the courage to tell parents, fear of their reaction, also informing teachers and peers, the risk of suffering prejudices, social isolation up to school dropout).
Receiving the unexpected news is often a shock that causes emotions such as anger, shame, guilt, anxiety, fear of the future and fears of not being able to care for the baby. The father, who is also often very young, usually disappears shortly after giving birth and in any case hardly ever takes on the role of parent.
This aspect also contributes to creating difficulties for baby mothers and to increasing their suffering and discomforts, of which one of the greatest consists in experiencing a conflict between their needs as adolescents and the needs of the child : they play only very little time with their child, they leave alone in front of the TV, they don’t want to give them a bottle, etc. Maybe, for example, they prefer to spend time chatting with their friends, they would like to go out shopping or go dancing in the evening.
Younger girls find it harder to get in tune with the little one, sometimes they know how to look after him physically (also because they are helped by mothers, family members, etc.), but not emotionally: they cannot console him, speak to him, communicate, etc.
All this because, in fact, they are themselves immature from the psychological point of view. Their body is biologically ready for pregnancy, but not their mind; to be parents it is necessary to stop being “children”, becoming independent, autonomous, responsible, etc. but this is what teenagers do not want and cannot do. Furthermore, being able to continue studying is almost always impossible, both for time and economic reasons.
The number of teenage mothers who drop out of school is 50%, and this negatively affects their future and their social, family and economic possibilities. In fact, they often remain unemployed or under-employed, and find themselves in the condition of a second pregnancy within a short time.
According to research, if baby mothers are not supported by a multidisciplinary group of experts, their children will be neglected, sometimes even mistreated and / or abused, and may face more serious problems in the long run, such as aggression, depression, learning difficulties, up to insertion difficulties and violent behavior.
It is very important to follow and help these girls at least in the first two years of the child’s life, also because it has been seen that grandparents or other reference figures present in the house often find it hard to be a balanced guide, as sometimes they they disinterest or totally replace the mother figure, creating confusion in the little one who no longer knows who to listen to, being subjected to opposing rules and stimuli.
Another relevant aspect, already mentioned above, is the prejudice and the social stigma , very present even today, especially in small urban provinces: the pregnant girl is teased, isolated and often her family is ” looked at badly ”and criticized. She loses her friends, can no longer go out with them, feels ugly and inadequate because she has gained weight, does not recognize her body and is not ready for the quick change of life she has to face.
Thus he enters into confusion and does not know what to do with the newborn, he does not feel up to par, he is afraid if he cries, he does not know how to talk to him, he does not want to and, at the same time, he feels anger at his new condition, because she is tired, she no longer sleeps, she has no time for herself and to do the normal things of all her peers, without worries or responsibilities.
According to experts, in fact, adolescent mothers have a greater risk, compared to mothers over the age of twenty, of stress and, even, four times higher than post-partum depression ; moreover, they may have children with genetic anomalies to a statistically greater extent, preterm and / or low weight infants, higher rates of perinatal and infant morbidity / mortality, experience their own diseases or complications during pregnancy of a medical nature (anemia, hypertension , nutritional deficiencies, or etc.) and of an obstetric nature (delivery with prolonged labor, unscheduled caesarean, obstetric fistulas, etc.).
Thanks to specific support centers , on the other hand, which we always recommend to contact in these cases, there are encouraging results: girls spend more time pleasantly with their children, are more attentive to their needs, are less at risk of developing psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression .