Treat Me But Don’t Judge Me: A Qualitative Examination of Health Care Experiences of Pregnant and Parenting Youth


Study Objective

To share pregnant and parenting youth’s experiences with health care to inform recommendations for promoting youth-friendly medical encounters.


This exploratory study used a qualitative descriptive approach.


Three urban centers that service pregnant youth and young parents in a large Canadian city.


A convenience sample of 26 participants (mean age of 18.7 years) was recruited across sites.


Five focus groups were conducted.

Main Outcome Measures

Focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically. Analysis involved the independent, open coding of data by 2 qualitative researchers to identify and compare emerging themes.


Three major themes emerged regarding their experiences with health care providers: characteristics of negative health care encounters, the emergence of contemporary stereotypes during these encounters, and characteristics of positive health care encounters. Negative encounters often resulted from perceived judgmental attitudes of providers and were shown to contribute to a general sense of mistrust and fear. Positive health care encounters tended to feature mutual respect, support, open dialogue, and nonjudgmental attitudes.


Pregnant and parenting youth in our study have experienced many negative health care encounters that have contributed to disengagement and mistrust of the health care system. To engage this high-risk population in health care, practitioners are encouraged to consider their own biases when servicing this population and work toward fostering positive, nonjudgmental interactions, and supportive environments.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Megan Harrison

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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