Category Archives: Teen pregnancy

Let’s talk about mental health of pregnant teenagers

It’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month in some parts of the world

We want to emphasise that sex-education can prevent teenage pregnancy, but let’s not forget a teen mom is not only struggling with the normal issues of being a teenager, yet another part is facing the responsibilities of an adult!

Teenage pregnancy rates in South Africa are high, with around 30% of teenagers in the country reporting ever having been pregnant. According to the 2015 annual school survey, over 15,000 pupils fell pregnant during the academic year. This is nearly triple the worldwide rate of pregnancy in teenagers.

The psychological impact of pregnancy on teenagers is pronounced; adolescents are twice as likely as adults to experience postpartum depression. Another concern is the lack of education, with only about a third of pregnant girls in South Africa going on to finish their schooling. Incomplete education and lack of skills make it difficult for these young women to find work in order to support themselves and their children.

There are a number of physical ramifications to teenage pregnancy – unsafe abortions, for example, can cause injury or death. As a whole, complications during pregnancy and birth are the second leading cause of death for adolescent girls worldwide. But it’s not only them that face serious risks during this period – their babies also have a much higher risk of dying than those born to older mothers.

One way of decreasing the risks to both mother and child is by making skilled antenatal, childbirth and postnatal care available in a safe, teen-friendly environment. This should include counselling with the intent of providing emotional support, mobilising potential resources, and teaching important information about childcare.

Further readings: Pregnancy – a guide for teens

A guide to pregnancy, giving birth, and life as a mom for teens

Written by: Meagan Dill, PMHP volunteer

Perinatal depression and anxiety: Let’s talk about moms and dads in Africa

In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), competing health priorities, civil conflict, and a lack of political will mean that expenditure on mental health is a fraction of that needed to meet the mental health care needs of the population.

For mothers, this treatment gap is most notable in regions where health agendas focus on maternal mortality indicators.

Source: Essentials of Global Mental Health

Who is at risk of perinatal mental health disorder?

Common mental disorders during pregnancy and in the first year after birth are associated with certain risk factors. These include poverty, migration, extreme stress, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual and gender-based), previous history of mental disorders, alcohol and other drug use as well as low social support.

– Migration
– Violence and abuse
– Alcohol and drug use

In South Africa, there is a very high prevalence of adolescent pregnancies with 39% of 15- to 19-year old girls being pregnant at least once. When adolescent mothers suffer from depression, the likelihood of a subsequent teenage pregnancy nearly doubles.


– Teenage pregnancy

How to address maternal mental illness among economically disadvantaged parents? 

Integration of services!

Mothers in many settings are using maternal and child health services as well as social services. Thus, detection and access will increase if maternal health screening and services are integrated into these public care platforms.

How to implement a maternal mental health intervention in low-resource settings?

We are sharing our lessons learned in this learning brief. 

We have also developed a Service Development Guidelines which demonstrates how to develop a mental health intervention at your facility, even with limited resources.

Find more free & open access resources for professionals on our website

And what about dads?

Postnatal depression can affect dads too. Find out about common concerns for new dads and discover helpful tips on how they can become more involved. We compiled a leaflet with information that could help you be better prepared for what is happening. The leaflets are available in

EnglishisiXhosa • Afrikaans • French

Impact of maternal depression and anxiety on child development

A number of new studies have found that stress, depression or anxiety during and after pregnancy can have long lasting effects on the development of your child.

We have translated some of those findings into an Issue Brief and added some of our recommendations for evidence based interventions for parents.

maternal mental health care

This Issue Brief outlines not only the risk factors for parents, but also encourages the building of resilience to prevent or lessen the negative impacts for children.

caring for the future

“Caring for mothers and fathers – is caring for the future”

Tackling the ‘New Beast’: Mental Health for People Living with HIV

To commemorate International Youth Day we advocate for better mental health for vulnerable teenagers 

Across the world, developing countries are making progress in tackling the HIV epidemic. According to UNAIDS, in 2012 South Africa registered more than 450,000 new HIV infections, a significant drop from the 640,000 new infections registered in 2001. They’ve achieved this radical progress through the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to more than 2.4 million people.

The ‘New Beast’: Mental Illness Among People Living with HIV

In South Africa, 38% of people living with HIV have a common mental health disorder. This is more than triple the incidence of mental health conditions for the general South African population. What’s shocking is that in this era of ART, increased advocacy, and knowledge of the condition, there has not been a decrease in prevalence of mental illness in people living with HIV, but a two-fold increase.

Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders are of particular concern in patients with HIV because they can lead to:
• Poor treatment adherence
• Lower CD4 counts
• Increased viral load
• A greater chance of developing drug-resistant strains of HIV

Source: Mental Health Innovation Network

HIV and Maternal Mental illness

The enormous emotional strain of living with HIV, including its social and financial consequences, makes women vulnerable to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, those women with mental illness are more vulnerable to becoming HIV positive. A depressed woman is less likely to be able to negotiate safe sex due to low self-esteem, a sense of hopelessness or financial dependency.

HIV nursing matters
Image: HIV Nursing Matters

Women at risk
• HIV+ mothers are particularly vulnerable to mental illness during and after pregnancy
• Mental illness affects how women use maternity, child health services and HIV services
• Mental illness has been found to have negative impacts on how HIV+ women adhere to their own and their child’s HIV treatment
• Mental health support and social support for HIV+ mothers is vital for the general health of women, their babies and families

Read more on the subject in our Issue Brief

Teenage pregnancy and mental illness

Approximately 30% of teenagers in South Africa report ‘ever having been pregnant’, the majority, unplanned. The likelihood of a subsequent teenage pregnancy nearly doubles when adolescent mothers suffer from depression.

teen pregnancy
Image: PSI Impact

Adolescents at risk
• Adolescents who become pregnant are more likely to have relationships that are coercive and abusive
• They are more likely to have had a forced first sexual experience, or physical or sexual abuse, and tend to experience a loss of support from family, friends or school
•  They are also more likely to engage in high risk sexual behaviour or be using substances and alcohol
• Adolescent and young pregnant women are at increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV

Read more on the subject in our Issue Brief

#WomensMonth – caring for mothers is caring for the future!

We kick off South African Women’s Month with one of our most powerful stories.

Based on Xolelwa’s story, this documentary takes you into the world of mothers with depression.

Award-winning Director Simon Wood, spent time with Xolelwa in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, where rates of postnatal depression are three times higher than in developed countries.

maternal mental health

Mental Health: The Missing Piece in Maternal Health

Mental Health: The Missing Piece in Maternal Health

blogging for moms mental health

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this fantastic blog series is co-hosted by the Maternal Health Task Force, the Mental Health Innovation Network at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Dr. Jane Fisher of Monash University.

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Click on one of the images to bookmark this blog series or contribute a post,

by contacting Katie Millar at

New and exiting opportunity to join the PMHP team

The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) requires the services of a Research Officer / Senior Research Officer. This is a full time post for a one year contract with appointment, starting as soon as possible. The appointee will be based at the PMHP offices on UCT’s Sawkins Road campus, but may need to travel locally, nationally and internationally.

Qualifications required:

  • Masters degree in Public Health or Psychology (or similar training and skills set).
  • Track record of publications in peer-reviewed journals
  • Thorough working knowledge of statistical packages for data analysis and ability to interpret results 

Additional qualification required for Senior Research Officer:

  • PhD in relevant discipline (e.g. Public Health, Psychology, Development studies
  • Evidence of successful research grant awards
  • Experience in liaising with international researchers and programmes
  • Experience of research project management

The main purpose of this position is to:

  • Co-ordinate PMHP research activities
  • Contribute to other research projects with which the PMHP partners
  • Pursue research grants for the PMHP

Find more details and how to apply at the UCT Vacancy pages

There’s Always Light

FunDza Literacy Trust has published a fictional story, sponsored by the PMHP, about a young woman who is terrified of becoming a mother.

 “There’s Always Light

Kamvi is pregnant and dreading the long summer holiday ahead. She is terrified of giving birth and feels alone. Cynthia is the only friend who has stuck by her. But even Cynthia is out partying, something Kamvi longs to do, but can’t. How will she cope? And where is Yanda, the father of the baby?


The story was sponsored by the Perinatal Mental Health Project (UCT) and we are providing access to information, such as the Maternity Booklet,
for everybody out there looking for information and support.

 FunDza is getting teens and young adult South Africans reading for pleasure and believes that all South Africans should have the opportunity to fall in love with reading with all its benefits. FunDza uses cellphone technology, and book distribution, to get readers hooked on exciting, relevant content in even the remotest parts of our country.

PMHP E-news: launch of campaign site

The Growing Up Campaign

has a new website

Find more details in our latest newsletter below

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Also follow the @GUPcampaign under #Child2Youth and add our Twibbon to your Facbook and Twitter avatar.

Pregnancy and childbirth outcomes among adolescent mothers

a multi-country study by the World Health Organization (WHO)

published in ‘BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology’

Special Issue: Maternal and Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality: Findings from the WHO Multicountry Survey

Volume 121Issue Supplement s1pages 40–48,March 2014



A total of 124 446 mothers aged ≤24 years and their infants were analysed. Compared with mothers aged 2024 years, adolescent mothers aged 10–19 years had higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, systemic infections, low birthweight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions. The increased risk of intra-hospital early neonatal death among infants born to adolescent mothers was reduced and statistically insignificant after adjustment for gestational age and birthweight, in addition to maternal characteristics, mode of delivery and congenital malformation. The coverage of prophylactic uterotonics, prophylactic antibiotics for caesarean section and antenatal corticosteroids for preterm delivery at 2634 weeks was significantly lower among adolescent mothers.


Adolescent pregnancy was associated with higher risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Pregnancy prevention strategies and the improvement of healthcare interventions are crucial to reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes among adolescent women in low- and middle-income countries.

To access the full article go to the Wiley Online Library  

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