New research discovers young girls with mental illness are three times more likely to become teenage parents than those without a major mental illness.
Researchers examined live birth rates from 1999 to 2009 in 4.5 million girls, 15 to 19 years old, in Ontario, with and without a major mental health illness. They found young girls with a major mental health illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, and other psychotic disorders, were three times more likely to become teenage parents.
“Research tells us that young girls are at high risk of pregnancy complications, including preterm birth, poor fetal growth and postpartum depression,” said Dr. Simone Vigod, a psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital.
“Add to this a pre-existing mental illness, and these young women are forced to manage significant additional challenges.”
Although birth rates in both affected and unaffected adolescent girls decreased over time, the gap between the groups appeared to be increasing slightly over the 10-year study period.
Among girls with a major mental illness, live births decreased by only 14 percent during the study period compared to a 22 percent drop among unaffected girls.
“Although we do know some of the risk factors behind why girls with mental health illness may be at increased risk of becoming pregnant, pregnancy prevention programs in most developed countries have not traditionally considered mental health issues” added Vigod.
The authors suggest targeted school-based programs are needed along with greater integration of reproductive health care into adolescent mental health care programs.
“Interventions that target and integrate reproductive and mental health care for young women are crucial to ensure we are providing the best care possible for adolescent mothers,” said Cindy-Lee Dennis, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute.
“Having these programs and offerings in place will also help reduce teenage pregnancy, and improve mother and child health outcomes.”
This article first appeared on Psych Central on 12 February, 2014.