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MVH Program Helps Pregnant Teens Have Healthy Pregnancies

Dayton, Ohio — Although teen pregnancy rates steadily declined in the 1990s, approximately 34 percent of teens in the U.S. still become pregnant and nearly all of these pregnancies are unintended. Pregnancy at any age is a time of change, excitement and concern but teenagers in particular have special needs. To help them cope with and learn more about their pregnancy, in 2000 Miami Valley Hospital established the Teens Learning and Caring (TLC) program which combines regular prenatal visits with an opportunity to meet other teens with similar due dates and to talk about pregnancy, birth and parenting.

"This is a different population we're dealing with," explains Vida McQuiston, BSN, a nurse with the program. "These girls have different needs than older pregnant women, so we tailor our prenatal education to appeal to this age group."

Teens in the program range in age from 14- to 20-years-old, although the average age is 17. What sets TLC apart from other groups in the Dayton area that offer prenatal education is the prenatal visit — an actual exam by a midwife. Midwives examine the girls, measure their abdomens, and listen for the baby's heart tones.

The girls are put together in groups based on the month they are due and follow the same schedule pregnant women keep with their obstetricians. Along with prenatal care, the girls receive information about parenting, childbirth education, how to console a crying baby, birth control, and the importance of finishing their education. Each session also includes a healthy snack.

A support person for each girl is welcome at each visit and a reunion with each group is held once the babies are born. To encourage attendance, donated gift incentives for both mom and baby are used. For some girls, these items are the only new toys or clothes they will have for their babies.

"About 100 girls a year are enrolled in TLC," says McQuiston. "And our success rates are very high. Only 10 or 12 girls who've been in our program have become pregnant a second time. 99.9 percent of them have said they are going to wait a long time before having another child. Our girls also tend to breast-feed more, smoke less, and have fewer premature births than other teenagers not enrolled in TLC."

TLC is not about promoting teen pregnancy. "Our goal is to help these girls have healthy babies, learn to be good parents and value education so they can attain their goals," says McQuiston. "We want to empower these young women to make improvements in their lives not only for themselves but also for their babies."