Depressive Symptoms and Birth Outcomes among Pregnant Teenagers

Published:August 17, 2009DOI:


      Study Objective

      Few studies have examined the effects of maternal depressive symptoms among adolescent women. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of depressive symptoms on birth outcomes of infants born to adolescent mothers.


      The medical records of pregnant adolescent patients were examined. Information about maternal depressive symptoms and birth outcomes was collected.


      Data were collected at Washington Hospital Center, a nonprofit, community-based hospital that serves residents throughout the Washington, DC area.


      Participants were 294 African-American and Latina adolescent mothers. Mean age was 16.2 years (standard deviation [SD] 1.4). Based on self-reports of depressive symptoms, adolescents were categorized by the following: no reported symptoms, depressive symptoms without SI/SA (suicidal ideation or attempt), and depressive symptoms with SI/SA.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Infant birth weight and gestational age at delivery.


      Over one-quarter of pregnant adolescents in this study reported symptoms of depression. Adolescents reporting depressive symptoms with SI/SA delivered babies that weighed 239.5 grams (98.3% confidence interval [CI] 3.9 to 475.1) less than babies born to mothers reporting depressive symptoms without SI/SA. There was no association between reported symptoms and gestational age.


      Results suggest that compared to nonpregnant teens and adults, pregnant teens may have an increased risk for depression. Additionally, pregnant adolescents with suicidal ideation are at greater risk for delivering infants of lower birth weight compared with teens reporting depressive symptoms without SI/SA and teens reporting no symptoms. This study supports the need for early screening and treatment of depression for young pregnant women.

      Key Words

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