Adolescent Pregnancy and Challenges in Kenyan Context: Perspectives from Multiple Community Stakeholders

Manasi Kumar, Keng Yen Huang, Caleb Othieno, Dalton Wamalwa, Beatrice Madeghe, Judith Osok, Simon Njuguna Kahonge, Joyce Nato, Mary Mc Kernon McKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The key objective of this paper is to provide a phenomenological account of the mental health challenges and experiences of adolescent new mothers. We explore the role of social support and the absence of empathy plays in depression among pregnant adolescents. The project also collected data on the adolescents’ caregiving environment which includes the adolescents’ mothers, their partners, the community, and health care workers, as well as feedback from staff nurses at the maternal and child health centers. The caregivers provide additional insight into some of the barriers to access of mental health services and pregnancy care, and the etiology of adolescents’ distress. Methods: The interviews were conducted in two health facilities of Kariobangi and Kangemi’s maternal and child health (MCH) centers that cover a huge low-income and low-middle-income formal and informal settlements of Nairobi. A grounded theory approach provided a unique methodology to facilitate discussion around adolescent pregnancy and depression among the adolescents and their caregivers. Our interviews were cut across four samples with 36 participants in total. The sample 1 comprised of eight pregnant adolescents who screened positive for depression in Kariobangi, sample 2 were six caregivers from both sites, and sample 3 were 22 new adolescent mothers from both sites. After individual interviews, we carried out one focused group discussion (FDG) in order to understand the cross-cutting issues and to gather some consensus on key issues, and the sample 4 were 20 community health workers, health workers, and nurses from both sites. We had one FGD with all health facility-based workers to understand the cross-cutting issues. The interviews in sample 1 and 2 were individual interviews with pregnant and parenting adolescents, and their caregivers. All our adolescent participants interviewed in sample 1 were screened for depression. Individual interviews followed the FGD. Findings: Pregnant and parenting adolescents faced several adversities such as social stigma, lack of emotional support, poor healthcare access, and stresses around new life adjustments. We highlighted a few useful coping mechanisms and strategies that these adolescents were thinking to reduce their stress. Primary social support for pregnant and parenting teens comes from the adolescent’s mother. The external family and male partners provide negligible support in the rearing of the child. While the mother’s reactions to the daughters’ pregnancy were empathetic sometimes, absence of food and resources made the mother distant and constraint in lending support. For those adolescents who were living with partners, in their new mother role, they had to negotiate additional challenges such as solutions to everyday childcare responsibilities and other family duties. The health care workers and community health workers confirmed that adolescent mothers have multiple needs, but there is a lack of holistic approach of service, and that their own training and capacities were very limited. Conclusions: Our paper highlights several individual stakeholder-related and system-level barriers in the MCH primary care setting that affect delivery of psychosocial support for pregnant adolescent. We have identified these knowledge, practice, and institutional gaps that need addressing through careful community and health service staff engagement using implementation strategies that are effective in low-resource settings. Pregnant adolescents are highly vulnerable group and mental health services needs to be understood better.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-27
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal Social Welfare
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Community support
  • Food insecurity
  • Pregnant adolescent in Nairobi
  • Primary health care facility
  • Stigma


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