Some of the main goals for improving the health of expectant and parenting young families include providing prenatal care, ensuring adequate nutrition, providing breastfeeding education, and addressing mental health and substance use issues.1
Breastfeeding education for expectant and parenting young families is another very important topic in health education services. Teen mothers in the U.S. have the lowest rates of breastfeeding2 and can encounter many challenges to successfully breastfeeding their child. Barriers to breastfeeding can include stress from having multiple responsibilities at a young age, unstable living arrangements, lack of breastfeeding knowledge and skill, and having an unpleasant or painful breastfeeding experience.3 To counter this stressful experience it has been suggested that, “Breastfeeding promotion and support in adolescents need to be developmentally appropriate, patient centered, and linked to multidimensional support.”4
Teen parents can experience an increased risk of mental health issues and substance misuse. Common issues include depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.5 In addition, teen parents, especially teen mothers, are more likely to live in impoverished areas with limited access to mental health resources. These factors can prevent teen mothers from obtaining mental health care and substance abuse treatment.6 Another barrier to young mothers accessing treatment is a concern about confidentiality.7 Including pediatricians in the provision of mental health care could mitigate this problem as many teens go to their primary care doctor first when they need help.8
Nutrition is an important topic for teens who are pregnant and parenting. Proper and adequate nutrition while pregnant is important for the child’s development as well as the mother’s health. Teenagers in general do get the recommended daily intake of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Additionally, obesity in the U.S. has been on a steady incline with teens eating more food but getting fewer nutrients from the food they eat.9
Your Guide to Breastfeeding
This resource from womenshealth.gov is an easy-to-read publication with how-to information and support to help women breastfeed.
Tools and Techniques to Support Pregnant and Parenting Young People in Breastfeeding
This webpage provides materials and resources on how to help support pregnant and parenting young people with breastfeeding, including guides, presentation recordings, and handouts.
Characteristics of Pregnant Teen Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions (PDF, 5 pages)
This report from SAMHSA provides information on the issue of substance abuse in teen mothers and provides results from a national data system of annual admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities and pregnant teen admissions.
WIC Works Resource System: Adolescent Pregnancy
This webpage provides resources for pregnant teens, young fathers, nutrition, and the Pregnancy Assistance Fund.
1 Family and Youth Services Bureau, 2012
2 Fieldman-Winter & Shaikh, 2007
3 Smith, Coley, Labook, Cupito, & Nwokah, 2012
4 Fieldman-Winter & Shaikh, 2007
5 Hodgkinson, Colantuoni, Roberts, Berg-Cross, & Belcher, 2010
6 Rosen, Tolman, Warner, & Conner, 2007
7 Akinambi, Cheng, & Kornfeld, 2001
8 Hodgkinson, Beers, Southammakosane, & Lewin, 2014
9 McNeely & Blanchard, n.d.