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Adolescent pregnancy: psychopathology missed


  • Julie A. Quinlivan,

  • Rodney W. Petersen,

  • Lyle C. Gurrin

  • University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology c/- Carson House, King Edward Memorial Hospital, Bagot Road, Subiaco, Western Australia 6008, Australia. Email:

Julie A.Quinlivan Senior Research Fellow and Senior Doctor, Adolescent Clinic (Correspondence); Rodney W. Petersen, Senior Registrar; Lyle C. Gurrin, Biostatistician


Objectives: Few data exist that explore the level of psychosocial problems and drug abuse in an Australian, adolescent, antenatal population. We set out to audit these data from a population of pregnant Western Australian adolescents. We also set out to examine whether social issues and the use of non-prescription drugs are routinely addressed in general public antenatal clinics.

Methods: One hundred and sixty patients were involved in the prospective cohort study. In the assessed group, 100 consecutive patients from the King Edward Memorial Hospital Adolescent Antenatal Clinic were interviewed during the antenatal period to determine if any major psychosocial issues or a history of non-prescription drug abuse was present. The control group consisted of 60 adolescent patients who delivered in general antenatal clinics at three Perth metropolitan hospitals.

Results: Sixty percent of the assessed group were identified as having a major psychosocial problem that interfered with their ability to carry out acts of daily living. Consumption of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, heroin and solvents were higher than that reported for the general Australian adolescent population. Of note, in the control group, many patients did not have a social, psychological, or drug use history taken by their caregivers.

Conclusion: Failure to identify psychosocial problems and drug abuse during the antenatal period will result in missed opportunities for positive intervention. These problems are common in this population and interventions are required to offer these women alternative foundations upon which to base their mothercraft skills.