Mental Health of Adolescent Mothers
By: Fauzia Haque, Contributing Writer
Teenage pregnancies are controversially one of the most taboo occurrences to speak about or even attempt to destigmatize. Cultures around the world view it differently, with some even having major repercussions, but all cultures generally view it as a cause and a consequence for social exclusion. Such intense stigmatization can lead to concentrated stress and anxiety being piled up in not only a teenager coping with their current circumstances of pregnancy, but also for worrying about the adverse impact that it can have on their personal lives. Teenage pregnancies overall are tied to a lack of education or rather the lack of completing an education as well as poverty. These premature mothers face higher risks of depression, even with the added implications that postpartum depression brings along. Here are some of the impacts that adolescent mothers take upon their mental health in countries around the world.
The Philippines is a country facing an enormous growth of at least 70% within the last decade alone in the number of teenage pregnancies occurring within the nation. According to the National Demographic and Health Survey in 2013, one out of every adolescent Filipino woman within the age cohort 15 to 19 are either already a mother or are within the pregnancy stages. Many of the young girls in the Philippines miss out on opportunities towards a future career due to an immense dedication to an already existing occupation. The mothers tend to become singled out, having to learn to care for another human being at a young age on their own, usually without help from the father. Such stressors can contribute heavily to impair the stability and sanity within a young girl’s mental state. The intergenerational gap between parents and their children leads to a loss of even acknowledging mental health and all of its repercussions. A lot of the Filipino traditional culture is deep-rooted in the passive acceptance of taking life the way it is (bahala na) and within trying to avoid societal shame (hiya). These traits generally make it impossible for mental health to even be a remote concern, especially among adolescent mothers, within the Philippines.
Nigeria faces a larger problem of complications resulting from teenage pregnancies or pregnancies within women in their early twenties. The ratio of adolescent mothers to mothers in their twenties to die during pregnancy and labor is five to one alone, with significant mortality rates for infants as well. By the "Demographic and Health Survey 2013," approximately 23 percent of female adolescents within the ages 15 to 19 have already begun childbearing, with 17 percent already having their first child at that moment. Similarly to those in the Philippines, young Nigerian mothers also suffer from a large likelihood of becoming condensed within poverty and severe physical ailments. Adolescent mothers typically face a platitude of adverse mental disorders, from depression to substance abuse or even post-traumatic stress disorder. Nigerian teens already are victims of anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, substance abuse and excessive use, as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors at alarming rates that are considered on a daily basis. Adding adolescent parenthood upon the daily abnormally potent aggravators to a teenage mind can severely impair them mentally, which will not only hurt them but also the lives they plan to live in the future with the children they want to bring along.
Even with teenage pregnancy on a decline within Russia, the United Nations reported that Russia had the second highest teen pregnancy rate, with 28 teens bearing children within a population of 1,000 females. Many of these adolescent mothers tend to come from Russian orphanages or unhealthy and toxic backgrounds with an unsafe, broken familial life. Many teenagers have never experienced love and the sense of family from their own mothers and fathers, let alone would they be prepared for parenthood as a child themselves, even more so with becoming single mothers in Russia. As alcoholism and other disruptive disorders are still rampant within Russia, especially among men, many teenage girls find themselves alone within the pregnancy process, unbeknownst of what to do or how to take care of themselves when they need to care for two. The added stress from a broken, unhealthy background to trying to be capable of caring for children of their own takes a toll upon a young girl, especially those within a Russian orphanage. They become susceptible to high rates of depression, anxiety, and even physical diseases that accompany the formerly mentioned. Organizations present within Russia, like Kidsave and Childhood Keepers, are working to educate these young girls and care for them in a way that allows and fosters growth and understanding of the precautions of having sex and becoming pregnant at such a young age.