Pregnancy in young people under the age of 18

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental illness in young people under the age of 18. Rates of depression is estimated to be between 16% to 44% in adolescent mothers.1

Teenage pregnancy is associated with several negative outcomes including increased risk of pre-term birth, low birth weight of baby and neonatal or infant mortality. It may be associated with negative outcomes for the mother, father and the child with lower education, poorer employment status, potentially reinforcing the cycle of deprivation and teenage pregnancy.2,3

Young mothers to be/mothers will access universal services which needs to be non-stigmatizing to support them and their children. Health care professionals should establish relationships with teen mothers and young fathers, treat them with dignity and respect and appropriately refer to child and adolescent mental health service, community mental health teams or perinatal mental health service, if needed. It is essential to consider health visiting programs, schools, specialist teenage pregnancy midwife and other agencies providing services to adolescent parents.

High quality care is critical to service use and optimization of care for adolescent mothers, fathers and their children. Family Nurse Partnership, School Nursing, Voluntary and community sector support programmes may be available for young families in the perinatal period.4

Healthcare professionals should use effective modes to engage with young people – offering services and information that are inclusive and easily accessible, treating them with respect and using an empowering approach.

CAMHS services may be able to provide parent-infant interventions which should be integrated with, or work jointly with, specialist perinatal mental health services.

Ensure evidence-based parent training programmes are non-stigmatising so vulnerable parents are encouraged to engage, for example peer-led approaches in universal settings such as children’s centres.

Safeguarding issues may arise due to young parents’ vulnerability, unstable relationships and lack of settled accommodation, which can affect them and their children. Health care professionals should assess the need for additional support in case of domestic abuse, child sexual abuse/exploitation that may warrant the need for further referral and safeguarding considerations.


1. Kessler RC. Epidemiology of women and depression. J Affect Disord. 2003.

2. Stacy Hodgkinson, Lee Beers, Cathy Southammakosane and Amy Lewin
Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents. Paediatrics, 2014.

3. Paranjothy S, Broughton H, Adappa R, et al Teenage pregnancy: who suffers? Archives of Disease in Childhood 2009.

4. PHE A framework for supporting teenage mothers and young fathers 2019.

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