How can engagement of adolescents in antenatal care be enhanced? Learning from the perspectives of young mothers in Ghana and Tanzania Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Adolescents are especially vulnerable due to increased biological, social and economic risks associated with early pregnancy and childbirth, yet most pregnancy and childbirth-related complications are preventable through a combination of proven, cost-effective clinical interventions including timely antenatal care (ANC). The voices and specific needs of adolescents are currently underrepresented in the literature on antenatal and maternity care. Objectives were to a) increase our understanding of adolescents' experiences with, and perceptions of, ANC and b) explore how these perspectives might be applied towards future initiatives to enhance adolescent care-seeking behaviour. METHODS: This cross-sectional qualitative study employed 14 focus group discussions with 112 adolescents aged 15-20 years in Singida Region in Tanzania and Volta and Eastern Regions in Ghana who had accessed ANC during their most recent pregnancy. We were particularly interested in what these young women valued and understood about their ANC experience, as this would provide insights into what factors motivated them to seek care. Transcripts were analyzed using conventional content analysis. Based on emergent themes and drawing on the Health Belief Model (HBM) as an analytical tool, a conceptual framework was developed to illustrate the myriad factors influencing adolescents' decision to attend ANC. RESULTS: Interpreting results through an adapted HBM demonstrates that adolescent health-seeking behaviour can vary widely among individuals and within communities, is shaped by the opinions of family members and peers, and is intrinsically influenced by broader health systems-level factors. CONCLUSIONS: The results led to our development of an adapted theory-based framework to illustrate the complexity of adolescent care-seeking during pregnancy in resource-poor settings. We demonstrate that while an adolescent mother is capable of exercising her own agency, she is also developmentally vulnerable to external influences and must be supported in her ability to make autonomous decisions. While the model presented here focuses specifically on ANC utilization, it may have applications for understanding how adolescents engage with health services more broadly.


  • Hackett, Kristy
  • Lenters, Lindsey
  • Vandermorris, Ashley
  • LaFleur, Curtis
  • Newton, Sam
  • Ndeki, Sidney
  • Zlotkin, Stanley

publication date

  • December 2019