Adolescent Preconception Health

Many public health programs recognize that health trajectories, including reproductive health, are developed over the course of a lifetime. Health behaviors initiated during adolescence have a great impact on future health and reproductive outcomes. Starting health promotion, screening, and interventions in the early reproductive years will optimize physical, emotional, and social wellbeing throughout the life course. Preconception health discussions and services provide a framework for planning a healthy future, thinking through consequences of early pregnancy, and having meaningful discussions about life planning. Adolescent preconception health is especially important given the data on adolescent sexual behaviors. Despite the decline in teen births for the last two decades, the U.S. teen birth rate is among the highest of all industrialized countries: more than 400,000 teen girls aged 15–19 years gave birth in 2009.1 Forty-seven percent of high school students surveyed in 2011 had ever had sexual intercourse.2 Youth ages 14-25 account for nearly half of all new STD infections each year, which can cause infertility and comorbidity2. Working with adolescents to set goals for life planning, nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, mental health, and financial and career planning will have an impact on present health and potential future reproductive outcomes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) U.S. Recommendations to Improve Preconception Health and Health Care(2006) called for identifying and modifying social, behavioral and medical risks to a women’s pregnancy (and general health) through prevention and management strategies. These guidelines facilitate the implementation of a life course approach to maternal and child health by applying these recommendations to adolescents.

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Teen Pregnancy in the US.

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual Risk Behavior: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention