The UK rate of teenage pregnancies is higher than most European countries - it is estimated that 50,000 mothers in the UK are aged under 20, and are far more likely to live in deprived neighbourhoods compared to other parents.
Despite the numbers, there is a gap in appropriate services for this group. Many feel isolated and alone, and they have a higher-than-average risk of postnatal depression - one study reported that 53% of teenage parents experienced it. If left unchecked, it could have serious consequences for mother and child.
Lottery of postnatal care
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The quality of postnatal care that women receive appears to be a lottery. We have serious, longstanding concerns about the levels of care for women with mental health problems. It is clear this is a high priority for maternity staff and it is clear they want to deliver a high quality service. However, they are often prevented by doing this either by the system itself or a simple lack of resources.”
While the right support services can help with the practical and psychological difficulties, these could be lacking in some areas. However, even when they are available, many young mums are reluctant to engage with professional support.
As a result, the Mental Health Foundation has launched a report, Young Mums Together, and A guide to running services for young parents, to promote their mental wellbeing and help facilitate access to mental health services, as well as practical support, such as housing, employment and parenting.
Recruiting young mums
There is also useful advice for professionals to deliver the best support services for young mums, including topics for discussion - confident parenting, healthy eating, sexual health and safety - popular guests to invite to groups, and how to recruit young mums.
The young mums’ group, which forms the basis for the report, was developed in a children’s centre, which provided access to a peer support network, weekly support with facilitators and access to extended professional services.
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The report includes attendance rates, structure of the groups, activities, and how mental health was supported. The biggest factor why young mums did not seek support was the fear of social services taking their children off them, thinking they could not cope.
There are also interviews with mums about adjusting to motherhood, accessing professional support, confident parenting and stigma around mental health support needs.
Read the report in full at: http://mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/young-mums-together-report/