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Mental illness makes teens more likely to become pregnant

Thursday February 20, 2014
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Young girls with mental illness are significantly more likely to become teenage parents than those without a major mental illness, according to a Canadian study.

The study, published Feb. 10 on the website of the journal Pediatrics, is described as the first to examine trends in fertility rates among girls with mental illness.

In the study, researchers examined live birth rates from 1999 to 2009 in 4.5 million girls ages 15 to 19 in Ontario. 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.

Although birth rates in both affected and unaffected adolescent girls decreased during the 10-year study period, the gap between the groups appeared to be increasing slightly. Among girls with a major mental illness, live births decreased by only 14% during the study period, compared with a 22% 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,” Simone Vigod, MD, a psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital and an adjunct scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, said in a news release.

The authors suggest targeted school-based programs are needed along with greater integration of reproductive healthcare into adolescent mental healthcare programs.

“Interventions that target and integrate reproductive and mental healthcare for young women are crucial to ensure we are providing the best care possible for adolescent mothers,” Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD, senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute and a Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Community Health, said in the news release. “Having these programs and offerings in place will also help reduce teenage pregnancy and improve mother and child health outcomes.”

Study abstract: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/04/peds.2013-1761.abstract


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