Experiences of pregnant adolescent girls: Exploring the role of shame in seeking health care in Uganda


Ronald Tibiita


CaHReF 2016, Yaoundé Conges hall, 23 – 26 August 2016 , PL009


WHO, (2011) report showed that 16 million adolescent mothers aged 15-19years; give birth annually, representing 11% of birth worldwide. In most cases, pregnancy among adolescents occurs outside the marriage wed lock; which is beyond religious, socio-cultural and legal acceptance. The failure to conform to acceptable cultural norms has far reaching consequences to pregnant adolescents’ including; abortion, suicide, and child neglect due to the associated shame experienced. Shame is a capable source of helplessness and failure in normal functioning. The experience of shame distorts connection of the affected individual from others.

This study applied social construction theory, based on idea that shame is a socially constructed phenomenon to explore shaming experiences of pregnant adolescent girls seeking health care. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were conducted with parents, pregnant adolescents and health professionals. Observations were held in maternity and out-patient clinics. Content analysis was used to code the audio taped interviews while approval was obtained from ethical review committee of Mayuge District.

Adolescents reported insults from health professionals during antennal care. Adolescents practically attempted abortion. Involved in petty business such as; road side food vending. There was no formal social assistance provided. Although adolescents were supported informally by family. Alternatively, adolescents sought care from traditional birth attendants due to access and inexpensiveness. Shame was less felt in private clinics due to financial motives. Notably, whether Government, private or traditional birth attendant, feeling of shame still manifested. This study recommends a strengthened health system capable of providing adolescent friendly health care services


Adolescent pregnant girls, shame, health system strengthening, health care seeking