Clinical Review

The management of teenage pregnancy

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5887 (Published 15 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5887
  1. Fergus P McCarthy, academic clinical lecturer12,
  2. Una O’Brien, clinical midwife specialist in teenage pregnancy3,
  3. Louise C Kenny, professor of obstetrics, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and director1
  1. 1The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, University College Cork, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, Republic of Ireland
  2. 2Women’s Health Academic Centre, King’s Health Partners, St Thomas’ Hospital, London
  3. 3Parentcraft Department, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Maternity Unit, Drogheda, Co Louth, Republic of Ireland
  1. Correspondence to: F P McCarthy Fergus.mccarthy{at}ucc.ie

Summary points

  • The United Kingdom continues to have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operations and Development

  • There should be a low threshold for suspicion of pregnancy in teenagers presenting to their general practitioner or emergency department

  • Teenagers should be engaged in an open, sensitive discussion about pregnancy options, ideally with the support of the family or partner

  • Early liaison with teenage multidisciplinary team ensures support and continuity of care, which helps to avoid repetition and stress for teenagers and their family

  • Teenage mothers are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, the effects of which seem to be reduced by optimal antenatal care

  • Long acting reversible contraceptives are the preferred choice after birth to prevent rapid repeat pregnancy

  • Barrier contraception should be advocated in addition to long acting reversible contraceptive agents to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections

Teenage pregnancy refers to pregnancy in women usually within the ages of 13-19, which may be intended or unintended. It remains a major public health concern worldwide. The World Health Organization has estimated that every year approximately 16 million females aged 15-19 and around one million girls aged less than 15 give birth. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second cause of death in 15-19 year old females globally. Furthermore, every year around three million girls undergo unsafe abortions. This review examines key issues related to the care of teenage mothers.

Sources and selection criteria

We searched Medline, Embase, CINAHL, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, recent conference proceedings, and Clinical Evidence online using the search terms “teenage pregnancy” and “adolescent pregnancy”. We focused on systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and high quality randomised controlled trials published within the past 15 years.

How common is teenage pregnancy?

The United Kingdom continues to have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy among …

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