The Times Journal & Russell County News
Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014 — RUSSELL SPRINGS & JAMESTOWN, KENTUCKY —
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Numerous risks involved to baby, mother, family in teen pregnancy
In Apr. 3-9 issue
By Kim Graham
Times Journal Reporter


With Teen pregnancy so prevalent in society, an important issue being faced is the health of the child and the ability of the young parents or most often, the teen mother's ability to provide for the physical, emotional and developmental needs of the child.

There are also health risks to teen mothers including premature labor and emotional strain.

Furthermore, the child of a teen mother faces many possible health issues including low birth weight, infant mortality and childhood emotional disorders.

Even folks who wait until they are married and mature to have children have parenting questions. Many parents pace the floor worrying about a baby's cries and trying every possibility to sooth and calm the infant.

Adolescence is a self absorbed time in human development but often there is more pressure on kids today to make adult decisions at earlier ages.

Teen parents are even less equipped than most adults to handle the complexity of raising a child.

Experts agree that adolescents tend to see teen pregnancy through rose colored glasses of the "me generation."

"A large part of the teen pregnancy problem is the 'me' attitude these kids have," said Sandy Ellis, Director of the Adair Russell Casey Pregnancy Center. "They think it's all about me not my kids, not my boyfriend, not my family."

She says without guidance and encouragement, many young mothers will have a tough time raising a healthy child.

There are resources available locally for young parents to get learn about parenting skills and receive support from trained educators.

The ARC Pregnancy Center offers many resources for expectant parents including parenting classes and tons of reading material they can take home.

Ellis says the classes cover everything from prenatal health such as nutrition during pregnancy to parenting issues from newborn care to early childhood development and discipline.

The services provided by ARC Pregnancy Center are free and confidential with an added bonus.

By taking the "Earn While You Learn" classes, clients earn "Mommy Money" they can use in the center's baby boutique to purchase baby supplies such as clothes, diapers and bottles.

Some dads come in and do Bible Studies and parenting studies in an effort to be able to have contact with their kids.

"I admire those guys for coming in and trying to learn," said Ellis.

Research shows that when teenage fathers are included in decision-making during pregnancy and birth, they are more likely to report increased involvement with their children in later years.

The center is operated presently by the director and a trained volunteer, Dawn Robertson.

"The reason I'm helping at the ARC Pregnancy Center is these girls have already had kids and the deed is done," said Robertson. "Now we have to help them to succeed because the odds are against them."

The Guttmacher Institute reports that on-third of pregnant teens receive insufficient prenatal care.

Children of a teen mother are more likely to suffer from health issues in childhood or be hospitalized than those born to older women.

However, studies have indicated that young mothers who are given high-quality maternity care have significantly healthier babies than those that do not.

Another program offered through the Lake Cumberland Area Health Department is a home visitation program called HANDS or Health Access Nurturing Development Service.

HANDS is a free program designed to empower new parents with the skills they need to become great parents.

Not only teen parents but also any first time mothers and fathers qualify for the weekly home visitation program.

"If parents choose to stay in the full course of the program, they graduate when their child reaches age 2 and receive a graduation certificate and trophy," said HANDS team leader, Brenda Dial.

The curriculum is called "Growing Great Kids" and "Growing Great Families" and covers basis care of children to social and emotional development.

Focusing on inclusive activities with families, the goal of the program is to promote parent child interaction.

"At any given time, we service anywhere from 25 to 30 teens in Russell County with our two home visitors," said Dial.

Dial says the HANDS program has a good graduation rate for participants and noted they've had 7 graduates so far this year.

Studies have shown that teens enrolled in HANDS during their first trimester of pregnancy were more than 3 times less likely to deliver their babies prematurely.

First trimester teen enrollees also are shown to be less likely to have babies with a low birth weight or very low birth weight.

Teens enrolled in HANDS during their first trimester are also shown to have 3 times less birth defects and much lower infant mortality rates than state and national averages.

In 2003, graduates of the program were shown to have no incidences of substantiated physical or emotional abuse to their infants.

"Kentucky's HANDS program is one of the largest in the nation and a nationally recognized example," said Dial. "We are really blessed to have such a successful program."

There are disturbing trends, including a continued increase in the rate of babies being born preterm and underweight.

These trends have a chance to be reversed through community programs such as those offered through the ARC Pregnancy Center and the Lake Cumberland Area Health Department.

"It's very rewarding that we've reached a lot of girls since we've been open," said Ellis. "But there's still a lot more we could do."

The ARC Pregnancy Support Center provides assistance free of charge regardless of age, race, religion socio-economic background or marital status.

Although the center is not a medical facility, they do have a strict confidentiality clause just like a doctor's office. The center is located at Key Village Shopping Center and is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information call 866-2377.

Family planning at the Lake Cumberland Area Health Department located in Jamestown offers physical exams, contraceptives and counseling. Call 343-2181 for more information.
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