Facts About Teen Pregnancy

By Maria Magher
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Teen pregnancy isn't just a problem that affects teen girls. Teen pregnancy can have a ripple effect on education, social services, child welfare and employment, which can affect both of the potential parents-to-be, the child and society as a whole. Greater awareness of the facts about teen pregnancy can lead to more involvement by parents, teachers and community members to help young girls prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Overall Trends

Rates for teen pregnancy have been declining steadily over the last couple of decades, despite a few fluctuations. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to reducing teen pregnancies, says that the teen pregnancy rate fell 42 percent between 1990 and 2008. Rates increased slightly from 2005 and 2006, but then continued their downward trend. The National Campaign says there were 40.2 births for every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 in 2010. Despite the overall decline, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting teen health, notes that there are more than 750,000 teen pregnancies per year nationwide. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services weighs in here, as well. HHS reports that although the teen birth rate is at an all-time low in the United States, the rate is still much higher than in other developed nations.

By Demographic Data

In general, teen pregnancy rates have declined across all ethnic groups and in all states. However, the National Campaign says that pregnancy rates among minority teens is higher than those of the overall population. In 2008, the teen pregnancy rates for black and Hispanic girls ages 15 to 19 was more than 2.5 times higher than that of white, non-Hispanic teens. The National Campaign indicated that the lowest number of teen births was in New Hampshire, which had 33 births per 1,000 girls. The highest rate was in New Mexico, with 93 births per 1,000 girls.

Influences on Rates

The Guttmacher Institute, which is dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, says that the decline in teen pregnancy rates can be attributed to more teenagers choosing to delay having sex, and to greater use of contraceptives. The institute reports that, on average, teens report having sex for the first time at 17. The majority of sexually active teens, 78 percent of females and 85 percent of males, report using contraceptives for their first sexual experience, the institute says. The numbers remain high for contraceptive use throughout sexual activity.

Teen Pregnancy Outcomes

Teen pregnancy can have a number of poor outcomes. The HHS reports that teens who get pregnant are less likely to graduate high school and are more likely to rely on public assistance later in life. The HHS also advises that children born to teen mothers are more likely to experience poor cognitive development, are less likely to graduate high school themselves and are more likely to have behavioral problems. StayTeen.org, sponsored by the National Campaign, reports that less than half of teen mothers graduate high school, and less than 2 percent graduate college by age 30. The site also says that more than half of all mothers on welfare were teen mothers. StayTeen.org also notes that about one-fourth of teen mothers have another baby within 24 months of having had the first.