Pregnant at 14 – what can you do?
“Some girls compensate for a lack of self-worth or a lack of affection with sexuality,” explains Michaela Kaiser. Other reasons are a failure of contraception as a result of superficial knowledge from the internet, or unplanned intercourse without protection.
Reactions to pregnancy vary significantly. Some people have rose-tinted glasses and are looking forward to having a baby without seeing the difficult side of motherhood. Others are shocked and are scared of telling their parents. Some are prepared and calm. Kaiser says “it’s important to listen to the girls and give them space for their emotions, to meet them where they currently are so you can show them different perspectives.” Decisions made quickly should always be questioned, particularly if girls seem very uncertain. “That way we can make sure that the decision is really being made by the expectant mother.”
Going through the following scenarios has proven very helpful: What does your life look like in five years with a child, and what does it look like without? Is abortion an option? The more realistically young mothers are able to assess their lives, the better they are able to stand by their decision. However, it is just not possible without outside help. If the expectant mothers have a good social network, it is easier for them to deal with their situation.
Since fourteen-year-olds are still minors, their parents have to pay to support them. From experience, once the shock has passed for the future grandmothers and grandfathers, they mostly agree to support their child. If this is not an option, the Youth Welfare Office will get involved and will help look for a place in a mother and baby facility. “Finishing education is vital for the girl to be able to look after herself and the child in the future, and lots of apprentice trainers help young mothers with this,” explains the counselor.
The father-to-be legally has no right to a say, but it is not uncommon for them to exert pressure on their pregnant partners to abort the child. “These relationships are rarely permanent, particularly if the expectant mother wants to keep the baby. This means it can be sensible to think through the options as a single parent,” Kaiser says. Fundamentally, relationships at so young an age are often not stable enough to endure the adversities of life. It is also important to speak openly about this.
Adoption is an alternative in the rarest of cases due to fears about not being able to give away the child or about being stigmatised by society as an uncaring mother. Anyone who needs advice or help can contact one of the Austrian family counseling centers for professional help.
Our interview partner
Michaela Kaiser is a marriage and family counselor and Deputy Chair of ZOE – Counseling related to Pregnancy and Birth, Linz, Upper Austria. The focus of the counseling at the family counseling center is on counseling for pregnant women.
The interview was conducted in March 2016 and revised in April 2022.