Teen pregnancy and mental health
For many, pregnancy is usually a time of emotional well-being. For those who are teens, pregnancy can impact their mental health in drastic ways that differ from older pregnancy experiences. It is estimated 20% of pregnant people suffer from mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy. However, researchers found that teens ranging from 15 to 19 years old experienced postpartum depression at a rate that was twice as high as people aged 25 and older. As a teen or parent of a teen, understanding some of the emotional stages that pregnant teens go through is important. Understanding and offering support can significantly alleviate stress experienced throughout the pregnancy.
During the beginning stage of pregnancy or upon finding out they are pregnant, teens may experience:
- Shock– 77% of teen pregnancies are unplanned so it may cause initial shock and then anxiety and/or fear thinking of what your parents, peers and partner(s) may say or think
- Stress– Teen parents face significant levels of stress that can then lead to increased mental health concerns. In addition to higher rates of postpartum depression, teenage mothers have higher rates of depression.
- Fatigue– during the first trimester feeling tired and moody is common.
In the second trimester, they may also:
- Feel more tired than usual
- Experience moodiness due to hormone increase
- Changing mindset from “me” to “us”
- Being more forgetful and disorganized than before
- Feelings of sexual arousal
While symptoms and experiences of teen pregnancies vary, there are certain postpartum stages that can occur as well.
- Baby blues: occurs 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: involves more severe and significant symptoms than baby blues.
In addition to higher rates of postpartum depression among pregnant teens, they also have higher rates of suicidal ideation than their peers who aren’t mothers. Teen mothers are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder than other teenage women, as well as many might have past abuse or trauma.
For pregnant teens, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. For those supporting a teen, there are resources to help you.
About Between Us the author
Between Us is a grant-funded program from the Minnesota Department of Health that creates access to confidential reproductive healthcare for youth and young adults who receive their care at Hennepin Healthcare. Teens have the right to confidentiality for certain kinds of care under Minnesota’s Minor Consent Law. Between Us works to transform primary care into a more teen-friendly environment, welcoming teens and their parents, while also providing confidential care when needed.
Marleny Huerta Apanco is a former Between Us intern and pursuing her Masters in Public Health in Community Health Promotion.