When a teen first suspects a pregnancy, seeking services may be the last thing on her mind.
Teens may try to conceal it or go into denial that it's happening. The Minot Healthy Pregnancy Task Force wants to encourage teens to seek services for a healthy pregnancy and better outcomes.
"We found, with all the agencies on our list, that the girls weren't being seen early enough," said Lisa Minette, pregnancy, parenting and adoption services coordinator for Catholic Charities of North Dakota. "We weren't sure if they knew that they could get services right away. Pregnancy services are obviously something the girls aren't quick to go for, and they're often not coming forward until later in the pregnancy."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Diana Reiner, Early Head Start coordinator, left, and Lisa Minette, pregnancy, parenting and adoption services coordinator, hold up a poster designed by the Minot Healthy Pregnancy Task Force.
"We want to target them earlier so that they know their options and they get prenatal care," she said. "We want the babies to be healthy, so they need those services from the beginning; and if they want to parent, we want to get them signed up for services so they can continue their schooling."
The Minot Healthy Pregnancy Task Force consists of various agencies and providers, including Trinity Health's nurse midwives, The Adoption Option with Lutheran Social Services, First District Health Unit programs, NDSU Extension Service, Early Head Start and Catholic Charities of North Dakota.
The various agencies can help teens make a decision between adoption and parenting, offer the teen prenatal care and pregnancy services and help get services in place to prepare for the baby's birth.
When teens suspect they might be pregnant, they may not want to tell the adults in their lives about it and may seek advice from peers. The task force hopes to let teens know they can connect with services that would be helpful.
"Some of them might not seek the information because they are in denial or they want to deny that they are pregnant," said Diana Reiner, Early Head Start coordinator. "Some of them can hide it for an extreme amount of time."
"They might be telling their friends, and their friends are giving them false information or information that's not going to help them. Their friends might tell them not to tell people quite yet, but it's important for them to do it right away," she added.
"Some may not recognize that they are pregnant, either. The younger they are, the less likely they are to know their body enough to know that they are pregnant," Minette said. "It's not good for the baby if they are smoking, drinking or not getting good nutrition."
Teens who are questioning whether or not they are pregnant can visit First District Health Unit for pregnancy testing, and can get signed up for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program if a test is confirmed positive. They can also be referred to a physician or midwife for prenatal care.
"After they are signed up for early services, if we're seeing concerns if a person is very young or if they are in need, we can refer them to the Village or to Catholic Charities for counseling on choosing adoption or parenting," Minette said.
"We work with them on whether they feel they are equipped to be parents or not," Minette added. "We want them to make good informed decisions. We want to make sure they aren't pushed into adoption or abortion if they feel they want to parent. And we want them to make the decision themselves and feel they made a good decision."
If the teen decides to parent, the task force can set them up with Early Head Start services, including in home services for teens who live in Minot.
"We can go into the home when they are pregnant and help them prepare for the baby, if they need help getting supplies or help learning the basics of parenting such as bathing and comforting a baby," Reiner said. "We want the experience to be as positive as it can be."
"We can also get them signed up with Early Head Start, so they can continue their schooling," she added.
For the Minot Healthy Pregnancy Task Force, the ultimate goal is healthy babies and healthy moms.
"Everybody is looking out for the best interests of the babies and of the teen girls, so the girls stay in school and have success later in life," Minette said. "Also, having prevention services in place before the baby is born helps keep kids out of foster care and keeps families together."
For more information on the task force's services, log on at (www.minotpregnancy.com).