CDC: Teen Pregnancy Rates Are Dropping, But Room for Improvement

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest findings on teen pregnancy statistics this week, and the agency’s report revealed that births to teens aged 15 to 17 have decreased; however, there is still significant room for improvement. Medical News Today highlighted the statistics Wednesday and elucidated that girls between the ages of 15 and 17 in the U.S. are still having nearly 1,700 births a week. The CDC believes that these figures demonstrate the continued need for intervention targeted at teens, and Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, maintained this week that, “Although we have made significant progress reducing teen pregnancy, far too many teens are still having babies. Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social, and economic outcomes. Efforts to prevent teen childbearing need to focus on evidence-based approaches to delaying sexual activity and increasing use of the most effective methods of contraception for those teens who are sexually active.”

According to Medical News Today, researchers studied birth data from the National Vital Statistics System, as well as adolescent health behavior data from the National Survey of Family Growth to come up with their latest statistics, and found that per 1,000 teens between 15-17 years old, births declined 63 percent, from 38.6 in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012. The CDC published its findings online this week to not only celebrate the dropping percentage, but also remind consumers just how prevalent teen pregnancy still is, and ”continue the dialogue about teen pregnancy and its burden on our nation’s youth.”

Teen births in the U.S. have continued to decline over the last 20 years, but all numbers are still relative, and even though the percentages of teen pregnancy have dipped, it’s still important to recognize that teen girls are still having nearly 1,700 births a week.

As always, the topic comes back to teen education and how we can further prevent teen pregnancy by ensuring that the country’s young ones are educated about sex before it’s too late. According to the CDC report that Medical News Today highlighted, though the agency found that 73 percent of teens between the ages of 15 and 17 had not yet had sex, of the more sexually active teens, over 80 percent had not had any formal sex education before they had sex for the first time. What’s more, nearly 1 in 4 teens between these ages had never spoken with their parents or guardians about sex.

Those are alarming statistics for a country that prides itself on a sophisticated system of sex education in schools, but they bring to light the need for change. The CDC’s report also effectively highlighted the reality that there is a need for interventions and services aimed at specific cultural groups, because different ethnic groups show differences in teen pregnancy rates. According to Medical Health Today, the CDC found that the birth rate in teens between the ages of 15 and 17 is highest for Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and American Indian/Alaska Native teens.

No matter what their race, it continues to be dangerous for any teen to get pregnant prematurely, as studies have shown that teen pregnancy causes many teenage mothers significant hardships, and their babies are also at risk for certain adverse outcomes, such as increased medical risks and emotional, social, and financial costs. That’s why health experts believe that communities need to support the need for more effective sexual education, as Shanna Cox from CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, explained via Medical Health News this week, “We need to provide young people with the support and opportunities they need to empower themselves. Trying to balance the task of childbearing while trying to complete their high school education is a difficult set of circumstances — even with the help of family and others.”

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