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January 23, 2006 4:30 PM

Having a baby at any age can be a bewildering and, sometimes, terrifying experience.

But how must it feel for Glasgow's 800 plus under 20s who give birth every year, many of whom are still children themselves?

That's just one of the things midwife, Laura Coltart, wants to find out as part of her new role as the 'Project Midwife - Teenage Pregnancy'.

Created by NHS Greater Glasgow and Glasgow City Council's joint Teenage Pregnancy Steering Group, the new post has been developed to specifically look at maternity provision for young parents.

Laura, who took up the post in December, explained: "In my new role, I'll be looking at how maternity services are provided to young women and girls in Glasgow's three maternity hospitals and across the UK. I'll be particularly looking for areas of best practice, of which there are many in Glasgow, and identify where the gaps are.

"Over the next couple of months, I'll be involved in organising a confidential questionnaire and focus groups to find out the views of young parents who have used the services or who are currently using the services.

"The whole aim of this work is to redesign services to better meet the needs of young mums and dads and ensure protocols are in place to ensure there is a consistency in the service we provide."

Laura revealed that young parents are less likely to use antenatal services, a problem that's not just a Glasgow one, but one that's seen throughout the UK

"There's a perceived stigma attached to being a young parent: they can sometimes feel they are being judged by health workers and other parents-to-be that they come into contact with; they may feel very uncomfortable using the services that appear geared towards adult parents; and, for under-16s, for whom sexual activity is unlawful, they often fear that they and their partner will get into trouble.

"We also find that many young mums-to-be also access maternity services late. For many, particularly the under-16s, it can take quite a bit of time for them to come to terms with what's happening."

There are a number of other issues that affect young mothers. Young mothers are more likely to:
* have smaller babies;
* be smokers;
* be underweight themselves;
* give birth early;
* suffer from mental health problems such as depression;
* drop out of school before or during pregnancy;
* be unemployed.

Laura said: "It's important the NHS and the Council, along with partner organisations, take an holistic approach to service provision for this group of young people. We need to engage with young mothers and fathers to ensure they are given the support they need throughout the whole experience.

"This includes helping young mums to stay in or get back into education; supporting them with health and well-being issues such as depression; and promoting health education to both young mothers and fathers."

This, Laura added, should have an add-on effect on the baby.

"If we can support and encourage young mums to remain in education, their life prospects may be improved. If we can promote a healthy lifestyle to them and encourage them to eat well, they are less likely to have low birth weight babies. If we can encourage the parents to have a positive relationship and include the father in the baby's life, then that's important for the baby. It all equates to improving the outcomes not only for the young parents, but for the baby as well."


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Last Updated: 11 November 2021