Behind the Scenes of Teen Mom

Do you like MTV’s Teen Mom shows? New episodes of Teen Mom OG began airing on MTV the Monday after Thanksgiving. The Teen Mom shows are spinoffs of 16 and Pregnant. Each episode of 16 and Pregnant followed one teen from the end of her pregnancy to the beginning of her time as a new mom. 16 and Pregnant isn’t making new episodes, but 16 and Pregnant reruns still play on MTV. Teen Mom (later called Teen Mom OG), Teen Mom 2, and Teen Mom 3 each follow a small number of new moms from 16 and Pregnant. A few years ago, TeenSpeak had a blog post about Teen Mom and its honest portrayal of the challenges of teen motherhood (http://teenspeak.org/2011/04/19/mtvs-teen-mom/).

Sometimes what you see on TV can be misleading.  Raising a baby in real life can be even harder than what they show on 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. In this blog post, we discuss some myths from Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant.

Myth 1: Paying for a baby is easy.

Fact: Babies are expensive. Moms need to pay for doctor bills, and often need help from the government, like food stamps, to make ends meet.

16 and Pregnant is pretty clear that it can be hard to pay for things moms and babies need. The Teen Mom stars, however, don’t frequently complain about bills. In new episodes, the Teen Moms live in nice houses and easily pay their bills. But remember: MTV pays Teen Moms to be on TV, and these women also make money from selling books and being in magazines. Most teen moms won’t end up on TV or make as much money as MTV stars and may struggle with bills for a long time. In real life, new moms have to pay for things like diapers and rent, as well as expenses they don’t talk about on these shows, like doctor’s bills. Online baby calculators such as this one (http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/baby-calculator/) can be helpful to show how much you might spend on a new baby.

Myth 2: All teen moms have healthy babies.

Fact: About 1 in 10 teen moms have babies who weigh less than they should to be healthy.

Babies on 16 and Pregnant are usually pretty healthy. But in real life, sometimes teen moms’ babies don’t weigh enough when they are born or have other health problems. This could be because, in real life, some teen moms don’t know that they have to see their health care providers more often when they’re pregnant. Real teen moms also may have to pay extra doctor’s bills to help care for their babies’ health issues, which is another major expense.

Myth 3: Having a baby is only a small setback on the path to a good education.

Fact: Only a little over half of teen moms have gotten their high school diplomas/GEDs by age 22.

Because having and raising a baby can take so much time and be so expensive, many teen moms in real life end up putting their educational goals on hold. This is pretty clear in 16 and Pregnant. But the Teen Mom stars are much more likely to have gotten their high school diplomas or GEDs (the equivalent to a high school degree) than teen moms in real life. This may be because they can more easily afford childcare because they are making more money by being on TV and have more time to go to school.

16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom show how hard it can be to have and raise a baby as a teen, and the reality can be even harder for many teens. 16 and Pregnant is no longer making new episodes, so it won’t be realistic for today’s teens to expect that they might get to paid to be on TV like the Teen Mom stars. If you’re considering becoming pregnant or having unprotected sex, it’s important to be aware of these realities and the challenges you may face.

For more information on pregnancy, contact your health care provider, or check out one of our online guides:

https://youngwomenshealth.org/tag/pregnancy/

https://youngwomenshealth.org/2013/06/20/pregnancy/

https://youngwomenshealth.org/2013/06/20/unplanned-pregnancy/

https://youngwomenshealth.org/2013/07/16/healthy-pregnancy/

https://youngwomenshealth.org/2014/02/27/contraception/