Teens learn effects of early pregnancy at Knoxville summer camp

Teens learn effects of early pregnancy at Knoxville summer camp

Posted:
The teens were trying on what's called the empathy belly at the Moses Teen Center. The teens were trying on what's called the empathy belly at the Moses Teen Center.
The babies are computer programmed. They cry. They react to everything the mom does. The babies are computer programmed. They cry. They react to everything the mom does.

By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Education Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Educators are finding it tougher than ever to get the message out that becoming pregnant too young can have negative consequences. But some teens in Knoxville are getting the message at a summer camp.

The teens were trying on what's called the empathy belly at the Moses Teen Center. It's strapped to their bodies to simulate the feeling of being eight months pregnant.

"It was heavy, and it shows you what it feels like, how your back goes back and everything. It lets you know how it feels," said Layla Safell, 17.

"They do laugh, but in the end they say, I wouldn't want to feel like this for very long," said program coordinator Cynthia Hudson.

The Petals and Promises Summer Camp is abstinence education offered by the Knox County Health Department. It's being offered for the first time at area Boys & Girls Clubs.

"We've had healthy relationships, which is something that this age really benefits from discussing, talked about puberty, talked about male and female anatomy here this week," Hudson said.

They even get to feel what it's like to hold a baby. Plus, the babies are computer programmed. They cry. They react to everything the mom does.

"The babies, they'll cry. They'll burp. They'll coo," said Kaneisha Rodgers, 15. The sounds are recordings of real babies, making the experience even more realistic.

"You'll give it its bottle. Well the baby will get, if it's loud it will get a little bit lower, but it won't stop crying. Then you'll realize, okay that's not the problem. Maybe I need to change it," Rodgers explained.

"the last time that my baby cried, it just cried and cried, and I did everything they told me to, and it didn't help," Safell said.

Targeting teens who are most at risk to become pregnant is key, and nearly every girl in the room knows at least one teen parent.

"She's my age actually," Safell said about a teen mom she knows. "She has a baby, and she's about to have another one."

Rodgers said for a teen mom she knows, "It affected her body. She's not used to looking like what she looks like. It affected her social life because she can't go out as much as she used to. It wakes you up in the middle of the night. You get tired more. Then you have to find ways to support the new baby. It's just a lot."

Although Rodgers seems like a natural holding her baby, she says she's in no rush to be a mom. "One day, not any time soon, maybe when I'm like 72, you know. Maybe I'll adopt," she said with a laugh.

The week-long camp also covers topics like shaken baby syndrome and the effects of babies whose mothers drink or do drugs while they're pregnant.

They even have a co-ed camp to let boys know how becoming a teen dad can affect their lives.

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