'Teen Mom 2': Medical Reality Intrudes on MTV Reality Show

PHOTO Reality show star Leah Messer and her twins on MTV?s "Teen Mom 2."PlayCourtesy of MTV
WATCH Does MTV's 'Teen Mom 2' Glorify Teen Pregnancy?

Now here's a dose of reality. New mother Leah Messer learned in the last episode of MTV's "Teen Mom 2" that one of her twins may have disabilities.

The reality star left the doctor's office crying after hearing the devastating news that her 1-year-old daughter Aliannah was not growing as well as her twin sister.

On the show, Aliannah shrieks as the doctor attempts to straighten her crooked legs.

"It's pretty obvious that there are deficits," said the doctor, who could not provide more details, but immediately ordered an MRI of the child's spine. "To me, it looks like her arms are too short. She looks a little disproportioned. You see that? There certainly are things that aren't working."

He suspected a "nerve-rooted injury" could be causing the deformity.

The twins were born in an emergency Caesarian section and Aliannah was born in the breach position -- or legs first.

Aliannah might have some type of skeletal dysplasia, according to pediatrician Dr. Michael B. Bober, who does not treat the girl .

That condition can be marked by disproportionate growth, where the limbs appear short or long when compared to the trunk.

"Twin gestation, breech presentation and being the first pregnancy for their mother are all independent risk factors for developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)," said Bober, who is co-director of the Skeletal Dysplasia Program at A.I. duPont Hospital in Philadelphia.

"An infant with DDH might exhibit signs of pain during certain hip movements."

If the dysplasia, or displacement of the hip, is picked up in the first few months of life, it can almost always be treated successfully with a brace. Sometimes surgery is necessary.

After the doctor's visit, Messer called Corey Simms, who is the twins' father. The couple first appeared on the prequel show, "16 and Pregnant," and were recently married.

Both MTV shows have been under heavy fire for encouraging teen pregnancy and painting an attention-getting picture of pregnancy and motherhood.

"Teen Mom 2" and "16 and Pregnant" give viewers an unvarnished look at the challenges teen mothers face," responded a spokesman from MTV. "By telling these stories, we're raising consciousness about the issue and educating audiences about prevention in a way that's relevant and authentic."

With more realistic story lines, experts like Leslie Hughes, a nurse practitioner at the Teen Ob Clinic at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, says that television is "doing a better job."

"A few years ago, Hollywood glamorized teen pregnancy with girls like Britney Spears' younger sister being called, 'the little homemaker,'" she said. "I didn't think that was cute at all."

"But 'Teen Mom' shows the harsh realities -- it's not just a dress-up doll," said Hughes. "It's a major responsibility."

Amber Portwood and Others Misbehave

MTV cites research done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, that revealed among teens who have watched "16 and Pregnant," 82 percent think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it.

Many of these shows have been marked by teen "misbehaviors," according to clinical psychologist Judy Kuriansky.

Messer and Simms of "Teen Mom 2" originally broke up after she cheated on him, but got back in his good graces.

Her predecessor, "Teen Mom" star Amber Portwood was jailed after a physical brawl with her ex-fiance Gary Shirley and charged with domestic battery and neglect of a dependent.

"This is a very interesting twist and very significant that the child has a disability," said Kuriansky. "The rest of the shows focus on misbehaviors and the dysfunction of the girls. That only encourages a lot of girls to misbehave."

Kuriansky, the author of the book, "Generation Sex," said this new narrative may make girls "think twice" about getting pregnant so young. "There are consequences."

Hollywood has too often fostered "pregnancy pacts and wannabees," she said.

"There is nothing glamorous about it," she said. "It means you have to be really responsible and have to be reliable and focus on the child and not yourself," she said. "When you have a child with special needs, you cannot be front and center," she said.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became a lightning rod for both teen pregnancy and a child with special needs. Her high schooler daughter Bristol became pregnant during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Palin had also just given birth to her son Trig, who has Down syndrome.

"She made a public statement about how moms have to deal with a special needs child," Kuriansky said of Palin. "She embraced him and became more beloved because of that. She was a real role model for how you can be a mom who can have a life and also be an accepting mother."

Still, Kuriansky said television producers would better serve teenagers by providing opportunities to "process" the bad messages that are so rampant on reality shows.

"Families and parents should watch TV with the kids at any age and process them, to actually watch the shows together," she said. "They could discuss the girls' lives and how they were handling it and even pointing out the good things they do."