When Teenage Pregnancy Ends in Miscarriage

Pregnant Teenagers Have a Greater Risk of Miscarriage Than Adults

A pregnant teenager.
A pregnant teenager. Rosemarie Gearhart/Getty Images

While so much energy is put into preventing teenage pregnancy, there's little support for women age 18 and under who experience a miscarriage.

The insensitivity adults experience around miscarriage can be exponentially worse for teens, who are often told, "This is a blessing," or "This worked out for the best," or even, "You got lucky" -- all of which are terrible things to say to someone who has just had not only a potentially painful physical experience, but also an emotional loss.

Instead, teenagers should be treated with respect and compassion during miscarriage. This is an emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging period in everyone’s lives, and compounding that with the complicated experience of pregnancy loss only exaggerates those challenges.

Miscarriage Risk Factors for Teens

Teenagers are at an even greater risk of miscarriage and complications from pregnancy than the average adult woman. With so many teens not knowing they’re pregnant until much later in pregnancy, or not seeking prenatal care in order to keep the pregnancy a secret, their risk factors become an even greater threat. Such risk factors include:

  • Age, especially for teens 15 and under
  • Obesity, a growing problem among children of all ages
  • Being underweight
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol and tobacco use
  • Preeclampsia
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of prenatal care

Miscarriage Treatment for Teens

Generally, the treatment for miscarriage is no different for teens than it is for adult women.

It's worth considering a few special circumstances that affect teens, however:

  • Inexperience. A pregnancy during the teenage years is often a woman’s first, and many teens have never even had a gynecologic exam; in fact, they may have never even been treated in a hospital. Teens will often be anxious, and scared of procedures and exams they may be required to have as part of their care.
  • Consent Issues. Except in case of emergency, most states will require a parent’s consent for a teen to get treatment for a miscarriage. Many times, this is the first time a parent learns about her daughter’s pregnancy, which adds tremendous stress to an already difficult situation.
  • Avoidance of Treatment. There have been cases of teenagers avoiding medical treatment during a miscarriage due to fear of getting in trouble with parents, as well as fear of judgment by friends, family, and medical professionals. A teenager dealing with a loss on her own will not learn the warning signs of complications, like infection, excessive bleeding, or retained placenta, and may put her health at risk.
  • Partner’s Rights. Depending on local law, hospital policy, and parental preference, a teen’s significant other may not be allowed to be present during a miscarriage. This can be hard on both the teen and her significant other, whose grief process may be affected.
  • Legal Issues. In some cases, the emotional difficulty of a miscarriage will be compounded by legal troubles as well. Depending on a teenager's age at the time of a pregnancy loss, a hospital social worker could be obligated to report the case to social services as statutory rape.

    Recovery Issues for Teens

    Like anyone after pregnancy loss, teenagers have physical and emotional recovery issues to deal with. As a teen, there may be additional difficulties in coping.

    • Guilt. Teens are likely to feel guilty for becoming pregnant in the first place, as well as guilty about their loss. These feelings can be complicated by guilt if a teen feels relieved that her pregnancy ended without a baby to care for.
    • Lack of Support. Teens may face anger from their parents, and judgment by their peers— as well as family—for any pregnancy. Lack of social support can contribute to feelings of sadness, and may contribute to the development of depression.
    • Insensitive Comments. As mentioned above, many people feel completely comfortable making inappropriate remarks to teenagers after a miscarriage. Just because a teen may not have planned to become pregnant doesn’t mean she didn’t feel a bond with her baby, regardless of the appropriateness of the timing of this pregnancy. To call her “lucky” or make light of her loss makes a teen feel that her pain is unimportant or unwelcome. This lack of sensitivity can make the grieving process very difficult.
    • First Experience with Death. For some teenagers, a miscarriage may be their first experience with "death," and coping skills may not yet be adequate. A teenager can feel very isolated in this situation.
    • Loss of Childhood. Even the most mature teen will no doubt be changed by the experience of pregnancy and subsequent loss. Dealing with feelings of grief can be even harder when a teenager is also facing the loss of the childhood phase of her life.

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