Mothers aged under 20 years are classified as teenage mothers1. There are a range of risk factors associated with a maternal age under 20, for both mother and baby1.
Young mothers are at a higher risk of social stigma and are more likely to experience barriers to engagement in education and employment1,2. They are also more likely to live in areas with low socioeconomic status, as well as in remote or regional areas1,3. Teenage mothers tend to have higher rates of smoking during pregnancy and diabetes1,3. Further, the stigma and disadvantage associated with being a young mother can exacerbate the typical challenges associated with motherhood2.
The higher incidence of disadvantage and social stigma experienced by mothers of this age group is associated with a range of negative health consequences for both mother and baby1-3. Babies born to teenage mothers are at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality1. They are more likely to be born pre-term and low birthweight for gestational age and to have poorer ongoing emotional, behavioural and cognitive outcomes than their peers1.
Though not all teenage pregnancies are unintended, many are in Australia3. Therefore, rates of teenage pregnancy are also related to sexual education and contraceptive use3.
The combination of these factors means that understanding teenage pregnancy rates by region has important implications for policy in a range of fields including clinical care, health promotion and education2,3. For example, prior policy recommendations regarding supporting teenage mothers and preventing unintended pregnancies include providing sufficient health education, reducing stigma and, ensuring non-judgemental and appropriate antenatal and postnatal care is accessible to young mothers2,3.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [Internet]. Canberra ACT. Teenage Mothers in Australia 2015. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/mothers-babies/teenage-mothers-in-australia-2015/contents/table-of-contents
- McArthur M, Barry E. Younger mothers: Stigma and support. ACU Canberra: Institute of Child Protection Studies Research to Practice Series [Internet], 2018 [cited 2018 May 22];(3). Available from: http://www.acu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/589673/Practice_Series_3_Sept2013_YoungerMothers.pdf
- Marino J, Lewis L, Bateson D, Hickey M, Skinner S. Teenage mothers. Australian Family Physician, 2016; 45(10):712. Available from: