"… I would have left that man long time ago but, …" exploring circumstances of and motivators for repeat adolescent birth in Eastern Uganda

Dinah Amongin, Frank Kaharuza, Claudia Hanson, Annettee Nakimuli, Susan Mutesi, Lenka Benova, Lynn Atuyambe

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BACKGROUND: First birth before 18 years has declined in Uganda unlike repeat adolescent birth (=second or more births before age 20 years). We explored the circumstances of and motivators for repeat adolescent birth in Eastern Uganda.

METHODS: Between January and March 2020, we conducted a qualitative study involving 70 individual in-depth interviews with purposively selected respondents - 20-25-year-old women with and without repeat adolescent birth, their partners, and parents, in the communities of Teso sub-region. We conducted latent content analysis.

RESULTS: Four major themes emerged: poverty, vulnerability, domestic violence, and demotivators. Sub-themes identified under poverty were: "limited provisions", "peasantry", "large families", "dropping out of school", "alcohol abuse", and "broken family structure". Vulnerability included "marital entrapment" and "partner coercion". Demotivators included: "abandonment", "stern warning", "objection to marriage", and "empowerment". Extreme poverty resulted in inadequate provision of basic needs leading to unprotected sexual activity in a bid to secure financial support. Following the first birth, more than three quarters of the women with repeat adolescent birth reported increased economic distress that forced them to remain in unwanted marriage/union, often characterized by partner coercion, despite wanting to delay that repeat birth. Women without repeat adolescent birth avoided a second birth by empowerment through: an economic activity, contraception use, and resumption of schooling.

CONCLUSION: Repeat adolescent birth in Uganda is premised around attempts to address the economic distress precipitated by first birth. Many women want to delay that repeat birth but the challenges robbed them of their reproductive autonomy. Beyond efforts to prevent first birth, programs need to address economic empowerment, ensure contraceptive access, and school re-integration for adolescent mothers in order to prevent shortly-spaced repeat births.

Original languageEnglish
Article number142
JournalArchives of Public Health
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Adolescent
  • 'Repeat birth'
  • Circumstances
  • Motivators
  • Coercion
  • Uganda

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