- Copyright © 2014, The American Academy of Pediatrics
Teen births in the United States have declined over the last 20 years, but a new government report shows more than 1 in 4 teens who gave birth in 2012 were ages 15 to 17 years. There were 86,423 births to teen mothers in that age group, or nearly 1,700 births a week.
The new statistics were released in the April 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and highlighted in the agency’s Vital Signs publication.
The teen birth rate in the United States has continued on a downward trend, from 38.6 births per 1,000 teens ages 15-19 years in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012, according to the CDC. Despite the pattern, about 305,000 infants were born to 15- to 19-year-old teens in 2012. In addition, the U.S. teen birth rate is higher than that in other developed countries.
Racial disparities are a substantial factor in teen births: In 2012, the birth rate per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 17 years was 25.5 for Hispanic teens, 21.9 for non-Hispanic black teens, 17 for American Indian/Alaska Native teens, 8.4 for non-Hispanic white teens and 4.1 for Asian/Pacific Islander teens.
“Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social and economic outcomes, CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement. “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.”
The report noted that long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) including intrauterine devices and hormonal implants are the most effective reversible birth control methods. The data showed that while 92% of younger teens said they used birth control the last time they had sex, only 1% used LARC.
While providing confidential, culturally appropriate services that meet the needs of teen patients, health care professionals also should counsel teens about the importance of condom use to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the report.
Parents are “a particularly strong influence on the sexual behavior of teens,” the report noted, but almost a quarter of females ages 15 to 17 years said they have not spoken with their parents about how to say no to sex or about methods of birth control.
For the report, the CDC analyzed National Vital Statistics System data from 1991–2012, as well as National Survey of Family Growth data from 2006–’10 to examine sexual experience, contraceptive use and receipt of prevention opportunities among female teens aged 15–17 years.
Read “Vital Signs: Births to Teens Aged 15–17 Years — United States, 1991–2012” in the April 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm63e0408.pdf. Access Vital Signs at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/pdf/2014-04-vitalsigns.pdf and find other CDC resources at www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/2014/dpk-vs-teen-pregnancy.html.
In addition, look to the May issue of AAP News for an article on the Addendum — Adolescent Pregnancy: Current Trends and Issues, an update to the 2005 AAP clinical report.