Budding beautician Beth Sibley – who fell pregnant with her son when she was aged just 17 – says teen mum stereotypes give a false impression.
Beth, who is studying life skills and parenting with charity Youth Association South Yorkshire, says: “The other day I was doing some work for my course and trying to get picture of a teenage mum, and all the ones I could find online were of depressed mums with their heads in their hands.
“There wasn’t one happy picture – and that is not the truth. It was annoying, because they always try to make it out as a bad thing.
“I was embarrassed to walk around when I was pregnant, I didn’t want to go shopping, because I thought people would judge me. “And that does need to change, because there are positives0. When you are a younger mum you can have a better relationship in some ways.”
For many teenage mums, falling pregnant was unplanned – and a drastic life change.
Eighteen-year-old Dereece Dyce, mum to daughter A’vayah, fell pregnant while still at school. She says: “I didn’t tell anybody at all, because I didn’t want to be the gossip.
“I knew straight away, but I sat my GCSEs and passed them all, then I had A’vayah when I left. I have three little brothers, so I am used to babies and I took to it straight away. I love everything about it. Before I was worried about sleepless nights, but she has slept right through since she was born.”
Now A’vayah is one, Dereece is hoping to go back to college, but she says the perception and portrayal of teenage mums needs to change.
Dereece says: “I’m not the first person to get pregnant at a young age, and I won’t be the last.
“I would like the phrase just to be ‘mum’ rather than teenage mum.”
Rachel Mitchell thought she had a stomach bug, until a doctor told her she was expecting her son Marcus, now one.
The 19-year-old, from Pitsmoor, says: “It was a big shock – I started crying in the doctor’s.
“But it has changed my life because I am more busy, I do more now. I am not a confident person, but I am better now, after having Marcus.
“The course also gets me out and I want a job so it helps with that.
“Now I want to do well because of Marcus.”
The young mums say they would have more children in the future, but currently want to focus on getting back into work or education.
Sally Cartwright, who works with the girls at the Youth Association South Yorkshire, says: “In the last couple of months we have heard a few stories in the press about teenage mums, so the girls wanted to have their say and get rid of that negative perception.
“If anything we find that, because having children helps them find their way, it motivates them to be a role model.
“We have had a lot of success stories - we have had girls go on to university when they had been told ‘you can’t do anything’.
“They have proved people wrong.”