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Health-Risk Behaviors in a Sample of First-Time Pregnant Adolescents


  • Margaret M. Kaiser, Ph.D., APRN, B.C., Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, Omaha, Nebraska. Bevely J. Hays, Ph.D., R.N., Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, Omaha, Nebraska.

* Margaret M. Kaiser, Gerontological, Psychosocial, & Community Health Nursing, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, 985330 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska 68198-5330. E-mail:


Abstract Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the frequency of prenatal health-risk behaviors (substance use, sexual risk taking, and prenatal class attendance) among a nonrandom sample of first-time pregnant adolescents. Design: The design is descriptive. Sample: 145 ethnically diverse first-time pregnant adolescents aged 15–18 years. Measurement: Health behavior questions modified from the Center for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Results: The health-risk behavior most modified during pregnancy was alcohol use (64/145 drank but quit and 1/145 did not quit). Of the 52/145 who used street drugs, nine continued despite pregnancy. Of the 75/145 who smoked early in pregnancy, 39 continued. The majority did not use a condom at last sexual intercourse. Approximately half attended a prenatal class and half attended a teen parenting class. Conclusion: Health-risk behaviors captured by birth certificate data are thought to be underreported for all age groups, and the prevalence of health-risk behaviors in this sample of pregnant teens was often greater than the most recent national trend data available. The magnitude of the effects of health-risk behaviors on pregnancy outcomes necessitates improved data gathering to enhance planning and evaluation of research and interventions at community, system, and individual/family levels.