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According to research in South Africa, teenage pregnancy and mental disorders often go hand-in-hand.
The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) at the University of Cape Town, which works closely with pregnant teenagers, reports that compared to other adolescents, expectant teenage mothers have double the risk of being diagnosed with a mental disorder before and after their child's birth.
Because mental illnesses that appear in adolescence are more likely to persist throughout adult life, this concern that is not often addressed. One of PMHP's goals is to provide mental health services to pregnant teens in South Africa, and the group hopes to be a model for similar services globally.
The most common mental illnesses in expectant teen moms is depression, followed by anxiety. These are often attributed to the stress of child-bearing at such a young age, as well as the social stigmas that go with it, and are often misdiagnosed as temporary conditions.
PMHP says that more research is needed to find out if the disorders lead to pregnancy or are caused by it, as one possibility is that girls who suffer from depression and anxiety may be more likely to become pregnant at an early age.
In the U.S., research has found similar trends, especially among minority and disadvantaged youth.
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