Pregnant adolescents face unique challenges. Understanding the experiences, knowledge, and behaviors of adolescents during the pregnancy and postpartum periods may contribute to improvement of their maternity care. The purpose of this study was to compare the maternity experiences, knowledge, and behaviors of adolescent, young adult, and adult women by using a nationally representative sample.


This study used data from the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey (N = 6421). The weighted proportions of each variable were calculated by using survey sample weights. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios. Bootstrapping techniques were used to calculate variance estimates for prevalence and 95% confidence intervals.


Adolescents and young adults were more likely to experience physical abuse in the previous 2 years, initiate prenatal care late, not take folic acid before or during pregnancy, have poor prenatal health behaviors, have a lower cesarean delivery rate, have lower breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, experience more stressful life events, experience postpartum depression symptoms, and rate their infant’s health as suboptimal than adult women. Adolescents were more likely to rate their own health as suboptimal.


Adolescents have unique needs during pregnancy and postpartum. Health care professionals should seek to provide care in a manner that acknowledges these needs.

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