We asked readers to share stories of how teen pregnancy has affected their lives. To share your story click here — or scroll down to the form below. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
This post has been updated to include more reader stories.
Alicia Brown, 33, is an registered nurse in Sterling, Va. She was 16 years old when she became pregnant with her daughter.
I was kind of a directionless teen. In many ways, becoming a young parent gave me a purpose and a drive to be academically successful in order to provide a stable household for myself and young family. I also love the family I have now.
In 1998, I had the benefit of being on my father’s military health plan. At the time it was one of the only plans that would cover prenatal and maternity care for a dependent child. In addition, after my child was born and I was ready to return to high school, subsidized childcare programs such as what were offered through Fairfax County’s Office for Children were incredibly beneficial.
My single greatest resource, however, were my parents and the fact that I came from a financially stable household. They were able to help me obtain things that I wouldn’t have been able to obtain through any government or social program.
From a perspective of negative outcomes, I would have to say that those outweigh the positive in a lot of regards. Being a teen parent doesn’t seem to be something you ever really financially recover from. Particularly if you stay single or marry and divorce young, as I did. Now that my children are approaching college age, I am faced with regret that I hadn’t been in a financially stable, dual-income household when they were born. I know that I won’t be able to help with their college expenses or be able to provide for them a first car. Also, we live in a society that prefers to pass judgement on people [who] have made poor choices rather than a society that values helping people overcome their prior choices. Even 16 years later, I still feel a little of that.
When my daughter and I are mistaken for being sisters there is a part of me that is flattered, but the other part of me knows that I’m going to have to get ready to answer uncomfortable questions that are going to rudely be asked about my age and how old I was when I had my children. We live in a society that thinks it OK to ask invasive questions of people we don’t respect.
Either way, I’ve learned quite a bit about people.
Kimberly Young, 26, is a data analyst in Columbia, South Carolina. She was 17 years old when she became pregnant.
There was a local clinic in Greenville, South Carolina that catered to mothers of unplanned pregnancies. They provided free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, cribs, changing tables, and strollers. Ultimately, my parents provided all of those things but it was great to have the option. I also had school counselors who introduced me to the schools and colleges that offered family housing to undergrad students.
What did not help were judgmental Southern Baptist family members who made snide remarks and cease to acknowledge my existence after I was pregnant.
I was tired — a lot. I could not do the things that my peers did for our senior year like go on trips and hang out; however, I did much better than my peers in college because I had someone to be accountable for.
Jason Prescott, 30, is a city planner in Charlotte, N.C. He was 17 when his daughter, London, was born.
My daughter’s mother was 19 at the time. As an active teen-parent-to-be father, I did not seem to fit in any category for help. But looking back I certainly could have used some unbiased coaching, if nothing else.
The focus [in the talk about teen parents] is so much on the mother that half the picture is missing for the child. There needs to be more focus on the fathers, as well, coaching or anything, really. Having both parents involved in a positive, supportive relationship is incredibly important to child development. This is true whether or not marriage is involved. It takes a lot of hard work and determination.
[Being a teen father] helped focus my life to get my college degree as quick as possible and made me hustle for full-time employment. The path I was headed down prior to fatherhood was not so clear and certainly more dangerous. Her mother and I have had an up-and-down relationship; the court has been involved. Those have been challenges. If it wasn’t for family support, mentally and financially, I doubt I could afford to be in my daughter’s life as I have been.
Georgina Perez-Lewis, 37, works as a research associate in Tampa, Fla. She was 16 when she gave birth to her daughter.
If I was aware, or if birth control was readily available, I would not have gotten pregnant. I preach about birth control. Abstinence is great, but teenagers don’t want to hear about [it]. They are going to have sex if they want. Keeping them locked at home won’t prevent it from happening at school or other places.
I’m not sure if I was fortunate or just determined to turn my life around. I did eventually have another child, 15 years later. I majored in women’s studies as one of my undergraduate degrees. It took me a long time to finish school because of my circumstances. I’m a big supporter now for women’s rights and sex education. This really touches me deeply, and I’m really glad to see the teenage pregnancy rate dropping. I can guarantee you it is due to better access to birth control.
I was motivated not to be a statistic. I didn’t want to live in the projects and raise a child that repeated the cycle. I was motivated to be better for her.
Jean Talada, 23, is a stay-at-home mom in Waverly, N.Y. She gave birth to her son at age 19.
I became pregnant three days after I graduated from high school. It was tough at first, but now I have a beautiful 4-year-old boy and 2-year-old daughter. It gave me a chance for a fresh start, and it made me grow up and become an adult.
Some people may think we are young and don’t understand what is happening. But in truth, some of us don’t, but we do learn on the job — or if we have a strong will, [teen parents] give our child or children to people who can provide a better life for them.
We made the choice of having sex, and we had to live with the fact … but it doesn’t make us bad for it happening. It just happens if we don’t play smart about it, or it fails if we do play it smart, so either way, don’t judge us for this happening. It happens to anyone.
If your life has been affected by teen pregnancy and you have a story to share, fill out the form below. We’ll call or e-mail to verify a few things, and then we may publish your response alongside other readers’ stories.