Reassurance, options and support needed in teen pregnancy
By Darren Collett-Mills
There is no doubt about it: teen pregnancy has not hit the headlines in recent years quite like it used to.
According to the Office for National Statistics’ Conceptions in England and Wales 2017 report (published in April 2019), the under-18 conception rate has decreased for 10 years running. The report notes that in 2017, there were 16,740 conceptions among women under 18 in England and Wales – that’s 7.4 per cent less than there were in 2016 and a huge 61 per cent less than a decade before. Furthermore, in 2017, the estimated number of conceptions among those under 16 years of age fell to 2,517 – a 10.8 per cent drop from the previous year.
Investment in programmes across the UK to educate teens about sex, relationships and contraceptives, as well as a mindset shift in many young women to pursue higher education, has certainly had an impact on driving the statistics down. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that healthcare professionals’ work to support vulnerable pregnant teens must continue.
These young women need reassurance, to know they have options and to know that they should do what is right for them. While it may feel like an unnerving duty, how pharmacists and their teams respond in the pharmacy can have a huge impact on the teens’ future lives.
Empathy and rapport
Everybody is different, and not all customers will be forthcoming about their needs. This is particularly true of teenagers, who may feel quite vulnerable and are unlikely to want to share their feelings easily.
If you notice distressed or reluctant body language and behaviour from those who are looking around the pregnancy products in your pharmacy, you may be able to gauge how much attention they want from you. Talk to them quietly and on a one-to-one basis, to avoid attention from other customers, and ask them if they need any help. By building rapport with them, they may be more likely to open up to you, and you can then support their needs.
Advice and support
When talking to teenage customers who think they may be pregnant or know that they definitely are, but do not know what to do, there is so much information we can offer.
If someone is unsure of what to do next, it is important to let them know that they have options. Empathise with them, reassuring them that it is okay to feel this way and that they shouldn’t hide from it. Advise them that booking an appointment with their doctor is an essential first step, as their GP will explore their options with them.
There are many dedicated support networks and charities for vulnerable teens and pregnant women today, and signposting them to these resources will be another big help. For teen pregnancy specifically, Childline, Brook and Family Lives are particularly useful. Teens may find these services particularly reassuring when deciding what to do next.
Health and wellbeing
Health and wellbeing during pregnancy can, of course, have a significant effect on a baby’s development. With their limited life experience, many teenagers may need more education on how to get the nutrients and vitamins they need to support their baby’s growth. Whilst doctors and midwives will advise them on this, if they are repeat visitors to the pharmacy, they may well turn to you or your team for advice.
Keep them well informed about your pharmacy’s range of supplements or suggest natural enhancements to their diets that can help them through their pregnancy journey – they will appreciate your ongoing support.