There were nearly 250,000 babies born in 2014 to teen moms, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. About 77 percent of these pregnancies are unplanned. A teenage pregnancy can change the course of a young mom’s life. It puts her in a place where she’s responsible not only for herself, but also another human being.
Carrying a baby and becoming a mom not only creates physical changes. Women also go through mental changes. Young moms face added stress from:
arranging child care
making doctor’s appointments
attempting to finish high school
While not all teenage mothers experience significant mental health changes, many do. If you experience mental health changes after childbirth, it’s important to reach out to others and seek professional help.
Part 2 of 6: Research
Research studies on teen pregnancy and mental health
A research study published in the journal Pediatrics studied more than 6,000 Canadian women, ranging in age from adolescents to adults. The researchers found that girls ranging from ages 15 to 19 experienced postpartum depression at a rate that was twice as high as women ages 25 and older.
Another study reported that teen mothers face significant levels of stress that can then lead to increased mental health concerns. In addition to higher rates of postpartum depression, teenage mothers experience higher rates of depression.
They also have higher rates of suicidal ideation than their peers who aren’t mothers. Teen mothers are more likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than teenage women, as well. This could be because teen moms are more likely to have gone through mental and/or physical abuse.
Part 3 of 6: Types
Types of mental health conditions teen moms face
Teen moms might face a number of mental health conditions related to childbirth and being a new mom. Examples of these conditions include:
Baby blues. The “baby blues” are when a woman experiences symptoms for about one to two weeks after giving birth. These symptoms include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, overwhelm, difficulty concentrating, trouble eating, and difficulty sleeping.
Depression. Being a teen mom is a risk factor for depression. If a mom has a baby before 37 weeks or experiences complications, depression risks can increase.
Postpartum depression. Postpartum depression involves more severe and significant symptoms of baby blues. Teen moms are twice as likely to experience postpartum depression as their adult counterparts. Women sometimes mistake postpartum depression for the baby blues. Baby blues symptoms will go away after a few weeks. Depression symptoms won’t.
Additional symptoms of postpartum depression include:
difficulty bonding with your baby
thinking of harming yourself or your baby
difficulty enjoying activities you once did
If you experience these effects after giving birth, help is available. It’s important to know that you aren’t alone. Remember, many women experience postpartum depression.
Part 4 of 6: Risk factors
Risk factors for mental health disorders
Teenage mothers are more likely to fall in demographic categories that make risk of mental illness higher. These risk factors include:
having parents with low educational backgrounds
a history of child abuse
limited social networks
living in chaotic and unstable home environments
living in low-income communities
In addition to these factors, teenage mothers are more likely to experience significant levels of stress that can increase risk for mental health disorders.
But some factors can reduce the likelihood a teenage mom will experience psychiatric concerns. If a teenage mom has a supportive relationship with her mother and/or the baby’s father, her risks are reduced.
Part 5 of 6: Tips
Tips for teenage mothers
When it comes to teenage mothers, seeking support whenever possible can help their mental health. This includes the support of:
adult role models
physicians and other healthcare providers
Many community centers also have services specifically for teen parents, including day care during school hours.
It’s important that teen moms seek prenatal care as early as recommended, usually in the first trimester. This support for your and your baby’s health can promote better outcomes, both during the pregnancy and after.
Teenage moms are more likely to have better mental health outcomes and financial futures when they finish high school. Many high schools offer programs or will make arrangements with a teenage mom to help her finish her education. While finishing school can be an extra stressor, it’s important for the future of a teen mom and her baby.
Part 6 of 6: Next steps
Teenagers who give birth can be at greater risk for mental health effects than older moms. But being aware of the risks and knowing where to find help can relieve some stress and pressure.
Being a new mom isn’t easy, no matter your age. When you’re a teen mom, taking care of yourself while you also care for your little one is especially important.