Published February 05, 2010
An 11-year-old girl in the Northeast recently gave birth to a baby boy, the girl’s family told Fox News.
"My daughter and (her) baby are fine, and the baby is absolutely beautiful," said the mother of the 11-year-old girl. The girl and her family are not being named in order to protect the new parent's privacy.
According to Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of FoxNews.com, the girl’s age places her in significant danger.
"A very comprehensive approach to her care needs to be instituted early in her pregnancy," Alvarez said.
A recent report by the Guttmacher Institute said teen pregnancies in the U.S. were up 3 percent in 2006. But this case is not about a teenager, noted Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan, a leading high-risk obstetrician — it’s about a pre-teen whose body is not yet built to carry a child.
"Her body is clearly not defined for pregnancy with its short stature," Al-Khan said. "Her chest is not extensively developed for breast tissue, her bones aren't quite fused, and once you expose a child this young to high amounts of progesterone and especially estrogen, there is (a possibility) that it could halt her growth."
Al-Khan said other medical challenges facing a pregnant girl as young as 10 or 11 include:
— The pelvis is not defined for natural childbirth;
— The vagina could sustain injury during a natural birth;
— The patient is at high risk for preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, and which can lead to convulsions and multi-system organ failure;
— A higher risk of pre-term labor and delivery, which would mean the baby’s size would be compromised, leaving the baby at risk for developmental issues, fetal growth restriction and chromosomal abnormalities;
— Higher incidence of stillbirth;
— Higher incidence of cholestasis of pregnancy, a condition caused by the blockage of bile, which can lead to stillbirth and placenta issues;
— A chance of developing fatty liver, which can be fatal.
"The textbooks don’t even tell you how to deal with a 10-year-old; it’s completely different even though we understand the basics," Al-Khan said.
Al-Khan said a patient like this would benefit from early intervention and would have to be seen on a weekly basis during the pregnancy to prevent complications.
"Think about how difficult a pregnancy is for someone in their 20s or 30s ... the aches, pains, the sleep deprivation," Al-Khan said. "Now imagine it in a child."
There are also psychological issues associated with pre-teen pregnancy because a 10-year-old cannot be mentally ready to give birth, Al-Khan said.
"This is heart-wrenching because you have a kid whose mental capacities can’t possibly wrap themselves around what it means to be a mother," agreed Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor. "There are so many psychological minefields in store for her. Feelings of guilt, feelings of wanting to nurture another human being, and yet this is all very, very complex and intense when she looks to her own family to essentially support, and if you will, father her child."
Ablow pointed out that the girl is dependent on her own family to take care of her, yet she now has a child who is dependent on her.
"She has her own life plan, and yet there’s another life that should take precedence," Ablow said.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of all 15-19 year-olds in the U.S. have had sex at least once.
In 2002, some 13 percent of never-married females aged 15-19 had had sex before the age of 15, according to the think tank.
Al-Khan said it was likely that the possibility of terminating the baby would have come up in this case, because as sensitive a subject as it is, going through with the pregnancy would be a greater risk than having an abortion.
The youngest documented case of a child pregnancy was in 1939 in Lima, Peru, Al-Khan said. Lina Medina was six years old when she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby.