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Sexual Health (young people)

Experiences of young mothers

Some women get pregnant after their contraception doesn't work or when they forget to take the pill. No contraceptive method (apart from not having sex) has a 100% success rate.

Sometimes partners react positively (see 'Experiences of young fathers'), whilst others are unhelpful and unsupportive

 

Talks about having a religious wedding and why she prefers to live in her own home and not with...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Islamically we are married because we've got the new card done but we're not registered as married, we are individual people. But if we told people we weren't married, my child would grow up with the name hanging over her head as a 'bastard'. 

You know gossip is the worst form of any physical or mental abuse. You know it can leave a person damaged for life you could say.

Traditional Asian girls are meant to get married, move in with their in-laws and that's what usually happens. But its not very, some in-laws are all right, I can't say my mother-in-law was a bad person, I do get on with her which is a good thing because sometimes you don't.

Nowadays, more than not, daughters-in law are living in their own places and they go to visit their mother-in-law which is what I do. I have got no objection to do that but I am not going to move in with my mother-in-law, I want my own privacy, when I get up in the morning I want to be able to walk around in my nightie or whatever.  

You just wanna be able to get up and have a few minutes in bed or I don't know' just be myself.

Whereas if you're living with somebody else you're gonna automatically get up, get dressed straight away, you've got to' You know you don't have your own privacy, you've got someone looking over your shoulder, whether they're doing it intentionally or not.
 

Says that her partner blamed her for getting pregnant and started to hit her soon after the baby...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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But he didn't want to use condoms?

No, he said that I never told him that I'd come off the pill, but the day I come off the pill, I said to him, I'm coming of the pill 'cos its giving me like really bad headaches and mood swings and I told him I wasn't taking it and he just said 'yeah ok' but then when I fell pregnant, he said, well he said like that I never told him, but I did.

We split up when she was about 9, 10 months old.

Do you mind telling me why?

Well what it was, he started hitting me in the August, my birthday, and it got to the point I'd just had enough and I phoned the police on him and took him to court about it and we ended up splitting up like that really. So didn't want to be with him any more.

He resented you because you'd had your daughter?

I think sometimes I felt like that because the hitting only started when the baby was born or as soon as the baby was born, he started raising his fists to me and he'd never done that before. As soon as we'd argue, we'd have a big argument and he'd raise his fists and I would say 'oh yeah, go on then, hit me' and he never did until the August and she was born in the January.  

But we weren't properly living together at the time, I used to live with my Mum. My Mum didn't want me to move out and the baby was only a couple of months old and I thought well we'll move out, so that's when the problems started when we lived together he threatened to hit me, and then eventually he did hit me.
A 21 year old woman we interviewed remembered her boyfriend being very happy when she found out she was pregnant, even though it was the result of a rare IUD (non-hormonal coil) failure. She was due to start University and remembers her boyfriend (now her husband) saying 'Well you do that and I'll support you in it because it's important to you'.
 

Describes her partner's reaction to the news of her pregnancy.

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
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When we found, we went into the Family Planning Clinic actually and we did a pregnancy test and my husband was with me, well my then fianc'e, and he was delighted because he wanted to have kids and he was so happy and I went oh. 

But he was really really happy and I always... I don't know, from the moment I saw him I knew that he would be a great father, and I think that's one of the things that attracted me to him because I was like kind of at a stage in my life where I wanted somebody who was going to be a bit reliable and you know, a steady partner. 

And it was okay you know, it wasn't exactly what I'd planned but it was okay, you know I wasn't seventeen, I was twenty-one, so I wasn't that young and yeah, so it was more a question of okay, how am I going to sort out Uni and everything else, and the place I live and this and that. 

And it was you know that, those were the questions that came to mind so I had a list of all the things and started ticking them off and making phone calls and you know, we got on with it.

In certain cases the woman proceeds with the pregnancy even though her partner doesn't want her to. One girl who fell pregnant aged 15 said that her boyfriend blamed her, saying that she had 'lied to him' about having stopped taking the pill. She had stayed with him until her daughter was 10 months old but the relationship ended because he started hitting her. Parents can also react differently, with some being overjoyed whilst others are totally unsupportive.

 

Describes the difficulties faced by single mothers. (Actor)

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Yeah definitely I've always said, I can't if she's 15, 16 the same age as I was, I can't stop it, I can't tell her she can't do it, but I'd talk to her and say that it isn't easy like unless you get like the support of your family, because I like did at the time and like she wouldn't of had half the things in her life that she had if we hadn't had that support and when I was younger it was like easier. 

I thought it was easy having a baby 'cos like you babysit all the time and like see these perfect babies and perfect children, but you don't see the teething and the diarrhoea and the illnesses and sickness and the sleepless nights and I think that all girls about 12, 13 should have those dollies that look like real babies. I think that would stop a lot of teenage pregnancies.

'cos it's hard and some people can't cope with it I mean there's quite a few people I know that are older than myself and they've had kids taken off of them because they can't cope with them. And when you're young you think that these little babies in their prams are nice and you don't think about how much the prams cost and the nappies and the clothes and everything you need for a baby, it's so expensive. 

And it's hard and sometimes you can actually see how people can do it but if you're the right sort of person you think right, walk out of the room the babies safe in the cot, you count to 10, count to 100, like if you have to count to 100. Calm down and walk back in again. But it does get to the point sometimes when you think just shut up please just shut up.

That's the most frustrating thing, when they're screaming and you don't know if they're in pain or just having a winge and you check their nappy and the nappy's fine and you try to give them a bottle and they don't want that and just like everything. It just winds you up really, cos you don't know what they want and it upsets you and gets you wound up so...

So its not easy being a mum?

No its not easy at all, not easy, I mean you have to have a lot of patience especially when they're a baby and when they get older they back chat you and you have to have even more patience, that isn't easy and all of it' like people that babysit a lot can actually see that it isn't that easy maybe they'd think twice about having, being more careful and things like that. 
 

She found herself pregnant and homeless at the age of 16.

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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Who supported you?

Myself, I supported myself and my daughter, because I think really, like every time I want to talk about the pregnancy or the baby or if I was confused about something or I didn't know what to do, they were like, 'stop talking about it', 'don't talk about it, I don't want to know', so I was like... I had to do everything myself. 

My mum kicked me out when I fell pregnant with the little one and I don't know, I just didn't know where to go, didn't know what to do and I stayed at her dad's for a week because we were still together at that time and I went to the Council Housing Office and did everything myself within a day. Got on benefits, went to the Council and things like that.

How old were you then?

When I fell pregnant with [daughter] I was sixteen, I found out when I was seventeen, so I was nearly seventeen, I was six weeks pregnant when I found out. Just seventeen basically.

Young mums we interviewed had very different experiences depending on whether they were with the father of the baby or on their own. Women living with the father said their lives had changed to meet their new responsibilities as parents, but they had emotional and practical support from their partner, families and in-laws.   

 

Describes the type of help she receives from members of her family and her in-laws. (Actor)

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Yeah, she, she takes care of my daughter a lot and'Yeah, she comes to my house like now that I'm pregnant, I'm not really fit. I sleep a lot, so she'll come round and clean up for me and cook for me, and take care of my daughter for me.

My father is supportive financially, that's it though. If I need money, I go to him but he wouldn't talk to my daughter and take my daughter out and take care of her because he wouldn't. But he would help me financially. And my mother-in-law, she does take care of my daughter.
 

Describes why she is happy with her family life.

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Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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So, regarding family planning are you planning to have more children? 

No, that is it. Oh, we both definitely, we both wanted two children and now we've got girls we kind of think that's quite a good time just to stop there. Young enough that we can still do stuff now and I really don't want any more than two children. So, at the moment we're not planning on having any more. But who knows what will happen in the future?

Oh, it's security. There's nothing nicer than coming home to, you know, him coming home from work, I love it. It's the best time of the day when he comes in and obviously  [daughter] is thrilled to see him and he wants to obviously talk to us  and well, he's just my best friend. I've known him for so long that I don't' like worry about telling him, or speaking to him about anything.  

We just get on really, really well, we hardly ever argue. You know, just we've got a really good relationship and so it's really nice that I'm really close to his family as well 'cos, since my dad's gone it's only like my mum and my sister which are actually my family around here but they feel like my family as well so i'm, you know, part of a huge family now, which is nice.  

I mean, you know, he's a brilliant dad, very loving towards the kids. He'll do anything for them. Well he does, works so many hours that sometimes we never, we don't see him because he's working so many hours. But yes, it's definitely better, you know, there's more good points to it than there are bad, I have to say, in relationships. 

 But I'm lucky because he's quite a chilled out person, you know, things don't really wind him up and easy going, he's ever so easy to get along with. 

Single mums may find raising a child more difficult, particularly if they didn't get emotional, practical or financial support from the father. Lack of sleep and lack of money are two of the biggest problems "Money and sleep and needing support basically but money because children are not cheap, they really, really are not cheap".  

Having a baby when young, particularly as a single parent can be very challenging. "I wish I'd listened a bit more to other people saying 'you are still a bit young, have your childhood first, you are still a child'".

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated August 2012.

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