Peripartum adolescents experience significant interpersonal transitions in their lives. Depression and emotional distress are often exacerbated by adolescents’ responses to these interpersonal changes. Improved understanding of pregnancy-related social changes and maladaptive responses to these shifts may inform novel approaches to addressing the mental health needs of adolescents during the perinatal period. The paper aims to understand the sources of psychological distress in peripartum adolescents and map these to Interpersonal Psychotherapy’s (IPT) problem areas as a framework to understand depression.
We conducted interviews in two Nairobi primary care clinics with peripartum adolescents ages 16–18 years (n = 23) with experiences of depression, keeping interpersonal psychotherapy framework of problem areas in mind. We explored the nature of their distress, triggers, antecedents of distress associated with an unplanned pregnancy, quality of their relationships with their partner, parents, and other family members, perceived needs, and sources of support.
We found that the interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) framework of interpersonal problems covering grief and loss, role transitions, interpersonal disputes, and social isolation was instrumental in conceptualizing adolescent depression, anxiety, and stress in the perinatal period.
Our interviews deepened understanding of peripartum adolescent mental health focusing on four IPT problem areas. The interpersonal framework yields meaningful information about adolescent depression and could help in identifying strategies for addressing their distress.