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Young women who are pregnant

Supporting young women who are pregnant

Young parents face the challenge of meeting not only their own developmental needs at a time of significant growth, but also the needs of their pregnancy and later their child.

Teenage parenthood can have a significant impact on a young person’s life and is associated with a number of adversities. The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) practice sheet Supporting young parents highlights that young parenthood is more likely to happen when there are other adversities already occurring in a person’s life such as:

  • low socio-economic background
  • underachieving in school
  • misuse of alcohol or drugs.

Young parents can also face social stigma. Many young mothers report experiences of judgement or even hostility in their dealings with social service institutions, education providers, and health care facilities.

Outcomes for young mothers and their babies

Outcomes across a range of measures are worse for teenage mothers and their babies. Longer-term risks for the mother include depression and rapid repeat pregnancy, and intergenerational teenage parenthood is a risk for the child. Socioeconomic disadvantage is a risk for both.

Younger women are also at greater risk of violence from an intimate partner during pregnancy and in early motherhood (Brownridge et al., 2011; Gartland, Hempill, Hegarty & Brown, 2011; Quinlivan, 2000; and Taft et al., 2004).

'The difficulties of teenage parenthood, however, are not the whole story. The challenges of being a young parent are often accompanied by significant personal growth and satisfaction. Many young parents indicate that having a child motivated them to cease risky or antisocial behaviours and lifestyles, and imbued their lives with a newfound sense of purpose, maturity, and responsibility.'

(Price-Robertson, AIFS, 2010).

Adopt a strengths-based approach

For you to adopt a strengths-based approach, see these young parents not just as people who are at risk, but rather as people who are going through difficult circumstances and, with the right support, can achieve positive, age-appropriate outcomes (Wolin, 1999). Help young parents to reduce existing problems and risk factors for future poor outcomes. Support them in finding their own strengths and in working towards positive personal and interpersonal outcomes consisting of more than simply the absence of risk (Wolin, 1999).

Young women and prenatal care

Many young women who present to services have received little or no prenatal care. While in most cases the pregnancy has been confirmed by a doctor, some may not have attended follow-up appointments.

Some young mothers get poor antenatal care because:

  • They avoid follow-up appointments as they don’t want to be judged as young mothers.
  • They may expect a lower level of care due to their substance use.
  • They don’t want to deal with the pregnancy.
  • They have a lack of knowledge about local services.
  • They are unsure of whether to continue the pregnancy or not, and don’t engage with services until they have made up their mind.
  • They are experiencing domestic and family violence and their partner does not allow them to attend or they do not attend to protect themselves from further abuse.
  • They have mental health worries, disabilities or other factors impacting them.

Get to know what young people think about their pregnancy and how this may affect their willingness to go to services and appointments.


When a young woman does not make it to her appointment, be careful not to rush to judgement. Money, transport, a lack of understanding about what antenatal care is and why it is important may have got in the way, rather than a lack of motivation.

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