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Young Pregnancy and Mental Health in Puerto Rico

Author: Jeannette Meléndez. Master of Clinical Social Work student at Ana G Méndez University, Tampa FL.

It is impressive to see how the statistics on teenage pregnancy in Puerto Rico are increasing. Dr. Myrna Rivas (2002) established in her writing Adolescents and young people in Puerto Rico: In statistics that one in every 5 births in Puerto Rico is to a woman under 20 years of age. 6% of adolescent girls between 15 and 17 years old have one child, while 0.8% have two or more children. One in five women (18.5%) between 15 and 19 years old have had a pregnancy. 14.7% have had one, 2.9% have had two, and 0.9% have had three or more.

The number of births among adolescents and young people under 20 years of age is higher in relative terms in Puerto Rico than in the United States. For every thousand young people between 15 and 19 years old, there are 48.5 births in the United States (2000), compared to 71.5 in Puerto Rico. The figures for the United States are also on a downward trajectory, since the number of births to mothers aged 15 to 19 has been reduced very notably, which was 62.1 per thousand inhabitants in 1991; For its part, in Puerto Rico this figure has remained stable (72.4 in 1991).

On the other hand, in more recent information, a document was found titled: Comprehensive Index of Maternal and Child Health by Municipalities, Puerto Rico, 2016 written by (Marianne Cruz, Aurea M. Rodríguez, Manuel I. Vargas) The high rates of Births among teenage mothers are a cause for great concern given that their health and that of their babies are at serious risk. Among the prenatal problems to which they are exposed are anemia and pre-eclampsia, while for the baby, congenital defects, low weight and prematurity are some of the problems to which they are exposed to a greater extent when born from a teenage mother. For 2016, 12.1% of births in Puerto Rico corresponded to teenage mothers, fluctuating from 6.6% to 31.3%.

The municipalities with the lowest percentages of live births to adolescents were: Las Piedras (6.6%), Guaynabo (7.1%), Hormigueros (7.4%), Naguabo (8.1%), San Lorenzo (8.2%), Ceiba (8.4%). %), Yauco (8.6%), Quebradillas (8.7%), Gurabo (9.2%) and Vega Alta (9.3%).

The municipalities with the highest percentage of live births to teenage mothers were: Culebra (31.3%), Florida (23.0%), Cataño (20.0%), Coamo (17.9%), Barranquitas (17.2%), Adjuntas (17.1% ), Barceloneta (17.0%), Las Marías (16.7%), Ciales (16.5%) and Morovis (16.4%).

During 2016, 92.0% of births to teenage mothers were single, fluctuating from 68.8% to 100.0%.

The municipalities with the lowest percentages of births to single teenage mothers were: Quebradillas (68.8%), Moca (71.4%), San Germán (73.0%), Hatillo (75.9%), Las Piedras (78.9%), Sábana Grande (79.2%), Cabo Rojo (81.4%), Lares (81.5%), Aguada (81.8%) and Adjuntas (83.3%).

The 100% of the adolescents who had a live birth in Aguas Buenas, Añasco, Ceiba, Ciales, Cidra, Culebra, Juncos, Las Marías, Luquillo, Maricao, and Santa Isabel were single. Other municipalities with high percentages of births to single teenage mothers were: Juana Díaz (98.4%), Cataño (97.6%), Toa Baja (97.4%), Carolina (97.1%), Aibonito (96.9%), Caguas (96.8% ), Cayey (96.7%), San Juan (96.6%) and Vega Alta (96.4%)

It is a very worrying issue and even more so when the information available is very limited in terms of statistics. It is important that public policies can be created which allow for better control of information. If we do not know the status of the problem with real and recent numbers, we will not be able to have a true solution. It is important to begin educating adolescents effectively in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. We must keep in mind that these problems can trigger a mental health illness such as: depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, among others.

On the other hand, mental health is also an issue that must be worked on immediately. We must put aside the taboos that exist and start thinking about our children and adolescents. Mental health presents the same situation as pregnancies, the information available is limited and sometimes from many years ago. Currently there are children and adolescents suffering from a mental condition which has not been diagnosed and/or treated.

It is estimated that about 105,934 children under 18 years of age have mental disorders (ASSMCA, 2000). In ASSMCA alone, in 1999-2000, 3,286 young people between 10-14 years old and 1,613 between 15 and 17 years old were treated in the mental health area, that is, almost 4,800 young people. This figure represents 15.4% of ASSMCA patients and 56% of patients under 18 years of age.

In Puerto Rico, the most prevalent mental health disorders in the population of children and adolescents are oppositional disorder, attention deficit, major depression and dysthymia (Bird et al., 1988). Depression constitutes one of the more serious and frequent mental health problems among children and adolescents (Rosselló & Maysonet, 2002). Depressed young people may show a mood of isolation, neglect of personal hygiene, anxiety, self-reproach, and many challenging behaviors.

Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicate that, for 2013, 14.3% of adolescents in Puerto Rico confirmed that they had seriously considered suicide, which represents an increase in the number of cases when compared to 2011. which was 13.1% (CDC, 2013). The percentage of women who seriously considered suicide increased significantly between 2011 and 2013 (from 15.5% to 20.0%). Among men, the prevalence was lower in 2013 (8.3%), representing a reduction from 2011 (10.3%) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).

As professionals and parents, it is important to pay close attention to those signs that adolescents show, this could be of great help. If you don't know how to talk to your son or daughter, seek help from a professional. Never think that they are “chaguerias” or “drama” everything has a reason for being and only they know that it hurts them and that it makes them feel less.


  • Adolescentes de Puerto Rico (2016) ARTICULO Moscoso Álvarez, Margarita R. Rodríguez Figueroa, Linnette Reyes Pulliza, Juan C. Colón, Héctor M. Revista Puertorriqueña de Psicología Vol. 27 Núm. 2 Pág. 320-332

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[CDC]. (2007). Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system[WISQARS]. Injury Mortality Reports, 2000 - 2007.

  • Final, I. (n.d.). Los adolescentes y jóvenes en Puerto Rico: En estadísticas. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from

  • Rosselló, J. & Maysonet, M. (2002).Sintomatología depresiva, actitudes disfuncionales, perfeccionismo y auto concepto en grupo de adolescentes puertorriqueños/as. Revista Puertorriqueña de Psicología, 13, 225-241

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