Author Beth Barnet, M.D (University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore) and colleagues build on previous research that has shown a greater likelihood for teen mothers to experience depression compared to adult mothers. Additionally, depression in African American teen mothers is almost twice as likely as depression in white teen mothers. A pregnancy occurring within 24 months after a birth is said to be a rapid subsequent pregnancy, and it is quite common among young mothers.
The researchers note that "a recent meta-analysis found that 19 percent of teen mothers experienced a subsequent pregnancy within 12 months and 38 percent experienced a subsequent pregnancy within 24 months. The highest rates are among younger, economically disadvantaged African American adolescents." It is known that parenting stress and negative parenting behaviors - i.e., child abuse and neglect - are linked to depression and subsequent pregnancy.
Researchers examined a sample of 269 teens between the ages of 12 and 18, most of whom were African American. All participants were considered low-income and received prenatal care at five community sites in Baltimore, MD. To assess depressive symptoms and measure the occurrence of subsequent pregnancy, researchers administered questionnaires to participants that were finished one or two years after giving birth.
The results of the study are summarized below:
- 46% of the teens who completed at least one follow-up questionnaire had depressive symptoms at the beginning of the study.
- 49% (120 of 245) teens experienced a pregnancy within two years of childbirth.
- 10% (28 of 245) had more than one subsequent pregnancy.
- The average time between pregnancies was about 11.4 months.
- Teens with depressive symptoms were 44% more likely to have a subsequent pregnancy.
"Depression is unhealthy for mothers and their children. Treating maternal depression improves the health and well-being of both," conclude the authors. "Our findings do not tell us how depression might fit into a casual pathway to repeat adolescent childbearing, but they do suggest that depression may be an important malleable risk factor." Since depression can be treated, the researchers also call for future studies that should "evaluate whether improved recognition and treatment of adolescent depression reduces the risk of rapid subsequent pregnancy."
Double Jeopardy: Depressive Symptoms and Rapid Subsequent Pregnancy in Adolescent Mothers
Beth Barnet; Jiexin Liu; Margo DeVoe
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. (2008). 162(3):246-252.
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