Supporting Adolescent Mothers

Raising a child is difficult for any mother, but adolescents face unique challenges.  They are still growing and developing themselves, and are faced with the added responsibility (and stress) of raising their own baby.   

While limited, research on supporting young mothers shows that the most effective programs employ a coordinated, multidisciplinary medical home approach where primary care, reproductive health care, nutrition, mental health care, educational support, housing support, and assistance accessing public benefits are provided by a team in one location or institution.

The Physicians for Reproductive Health Programs identified a number of outcomes of the application of this “medical home” approach in the “Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program” (ARSHEP), including:

  • Reducing rapid repeat pregnancy
  • Improved prenatal care
  • Improved delivery weights
  • Improved substance use
  • Decreased stress/depression
  • Decreased child abuse/neglect
  • Increased contraceptive compliance
  • Continued parental education
  • Improved teen and infant health over the course of 6–18 months

Additional research shows that group prenatal care programs may be an effective addition to the medical home model for pregnant adolescents – with improvements in preterm birth rates and increased prenatal knowledge of young women who participated in group vs. one-on-one educational sessions.

The ARSHEP model also stresses the importance of avoiding stigmatization for young parents. This includes labeling (“teen mom” vs. “new mother”), and subconscious bias such as blaming, judgement, or condescension.  When appropriate, including the adolescent’s support system (her parents and/or the baby’s father) can also help the young mother in successfully navigating the challenges of parenting.

References:

Physicians for Reproductive Help: http://prh.org/teen-reproductive-health/arshep-explained/

Ickovics JR, Kershaw TS, Westdahl C, Magriples U, Massey Z, Reynolds H, Rising SS. Group prenatal care and perinatal outcomes: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Aug;110(2, pt 1):330–339.

Grady MA, Bloom KC. Pregnancy outcomes of adolescents enrolled in a centering pregnancy program. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2004;49:412–420.