Mental health problems and service gaps experienced by pregnant adolescents and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review

Joan Mutahi, Anna Larsen, Pim Cuijpers, Stefan Swartling Peterson, Jurgen Unutzer, Mary McKay, Grace John-Stewart, Teresa Jewell, John Kinuthia, Fatima Gohar, Joanna Lai, Dalton Wamalwa, Onesmus Gachuno, Manasi Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Pregnant adolescent girls and young women (AGYW, aged 12–24 years) are at high risk for mental health problems, particularly in the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) region. Methods: We performed a systematic review of mental health studies among pregnant AGYW in SSA published between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2020 in PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, PsycInfo, and Global Index Medicus following PRISMA guidelines (PROSPERO: CRD42021230980). We used Bronfenbrenner's bioecological model to frame and synthesize results from included studies. Findings: Our search yielded 945 articles from which 18 studies were included (N = 8 quantitative, N = 9 qualitative, N = 1 case report). The most frequently studied mental health problem was depression (N = 9 studies); the most frequently utilized measurement tool was the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (N = 3). Studies reported life course factors, individual, microsystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem-level factors associated with mental health problems. Gaps in mental health service delivery for pregnant AGYW included lack of confidentiality, judgmental healthcare worker attitudes, and lack of services tailored to their unique needs. Interpretation: Gaps remain in research and services for mental health among pregnant AGYW in SSA. Integration of mental health services within school, community, and healthcare settings that are tailored to pregnant AGYW could strengthen health systems within SSA. Funding: Author contributions were supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (F31HD101149 to AL) and the Fogarty International Center (K43TW010716 to MK). The funding agencies had no role in the writing of the manuscript or the decision to submit it for publication. The project itself was not funded.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101289
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Adolescents
  • Mental health
  • Pregnant
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Young women


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