Adolescent perspectives on peripartum mental health prevention and promotion from Kenya: Findings from a design thinking approach

Joseph Kathono, Vincent Nyongesa, Shillah Mwaniga, Georgina Obonyo, Obadia Yator, Maryann Wambugu, Joy Banerjee, Erica Breuer, Malia Duffy, Joanna Lai, Marcy Levy, Simon Njuguna, Manasi Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Kenya, approximately one in five girls aged 15–19 years old are pregnant or already a mother. Adolescent girls and young women experience significant mental health vulnerabilities during the pregnancy and postpartum periods, leading to poor antenatal and postnatal care attendance and inferior infant and maternal health outcomes. Pregnant adolescents often experience stigma and disenfranchisement due to their pregnancy status and at the same time lack access to mental health support within health settings, schools, religious institutions, and communities. This paper presents the results of qualitative interviews embedded within the human-centered design (HCD) process used to adapt the Helping Adolescents Thrive (HAT) program for Kenyan peripartum adolescents including young fathers. This qualitative study used two phases. First, a HAT advisory group participated in a series of four workshops to help identify and articulate mental health promotion needs and deepened the team’s understanding of youth-centered thinking. Second, qualitative interviews were conducted with 39 pregnant and parenting adolescents to understand their perspectives on mental health prevention and promotion. Pregnant and parenting adolescents articulated different needs including poor support, stigma, and psychological disturbances. Parenting adolescents reported disturbed relationships, managing motherhood, poor health, and social empowerment. Participants highlighted sources of stress including economic challenges, fear of delivery, strained relationships, rejection, and stigma. Participants described psychological disturbances such as feeling stressed, worthless, withdrawn, and suicidal. Coping mechanisms reported by participants included engaging in domestic activities, hobbies, and social networking. Peers, family and spirituality were identified as important sources of support, as well as school integration, livelihoods, support groups and mentorships. Findings from this study can be used to strengthen and adapt HAT program, policy and practice for mental health prevention and promotion for pregnant and parenting adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0290868
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


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