WEDNESDAY, March 5, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Black American teen mothers who have depression symptoms may be more likely to become pregnant again within two years of giving birth, says a University of Maryland School of Medicine study.
The study followed 269 predominately black American, low-income teens (aged 12 to 18) who received prenatal care at five community sites. One or two years after giving birth, the teen mothers completed questionnaires that asked about symptoms of depression and subsequent pregnancy.
Among the girls who completed at least one follow-up questionnaire, 46 percent had depressive symptoms at the start of the study.
Among the 245 teens followed through two years, 120 (49 percent) had another pregnancy within two years, and 28 (10 percent) had more than one subsequent pregnancy. The average time between pregnancies was 11.4 months.
"Teens having a subsequent pregnancy were more likely to be school dropouts; not use condoms consistently at follow-up; and report a relationship with their baby's father, who tended to be older," wrote the authors, who calculated that depressive symptoms were associated with a 44 percent increased risk of subsequent pregnancy.
The study was published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
"Depression is unhealthy for mothers and their children. Treating maternal depression improves the health and well-being of both," the authors concluded. "Our findings do not tell us how depression might fit into a casual pathway to repeat adolescent childbearing, but they do suggest that depression may be an important malleable risk factor."
They noted that since depression is treatable, "future studies should evaluate whether improved recognition and treatment of adolescent depression reduces the risk of rapid subsequent pregnancy."
Previous research has suggested that teen mothers are twice as likely as adult mothers to experience depression, and that depression afflicts almost twice as many black teen mothers as white teen mothers, according to background information in the study.
In addition, rapid subsequent pregnancy -- within two years -- is common in young mothers. Depression and subsequent pregnancy are associated with parenting stress and negative parenting behaviors such as neglect and child abuse, the study authors noted.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has more about teen pregnancy.