Monday 19 March 2018

Dear Dr Jennifer: Our 17-year-old is pregnant, just as she starts her Leaving Cert year

Dr Jennifer Grant, a GP with the Beacon HealthCheck screening programme at Beacon Hospital
Dr Jennifer Grant, a GP with the Beacon HealthCheck screening programme at Beacon Hospital

Dear Doctor,

My 17-year-old daughter, who has just started her Leaving Cert year, is pregnant. Her father has gone into shock mode and I don't know what to do. She's just starting to show and I'm wondering what you would normally advise people in this situation to do? I'm finding it really hard as we just don't seem to be able to have a civil conversation about it.

Dr Jennifer says: Your husband is obviously very upset and probably needs some time to reach a level of acceptance. It is only natural for parents in this situation to go into 'shock mode' as you call it. Most likely as time passes and the little baby arrives no one will ever remember all the heated arguments.

I'm interested in whether you have explored your daughter's feelings about her pregnancy and becoming a mother. I would like to know if you plan to support her and your new grandchild when he/she is born.

At 17-years-old she may want to go to college or pursue a career whilst also trying to raise a baby. Her support network will be extremely important. I would encourage your daughter to complete her exams - perhaps consider postponing college for one year.

Of course bringing a child into the world at 17 years of age changes everything for your daughter, for you and your whole household. But as the baby becomes a little person and fills your life your joy and laughter, everything else will fall into place and everyone around the child will adapt.

You need to sit your husband down for a mature conversation addressing future needs of your child and grandchild and the role you plan to play in their lives. Your husband may not be ready to have this conversation yet but perhaps a visit to a counsellor or your GP would help. In time he will learn to love his grandchild as much as he loves his daughter - that's family after all.

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