TUESDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Over the last two decades
teen births have dropped 37 percent in the United States and are
now at a record low, government health officials report.
While this is good news, the U.S. teen birth rate is still up to
nine times that of other affluent nations, and more than 410,000
teen births were recorded in the United States in 2009 alone,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"While we are making significant progress in bringing down the teen birth rate, we have much more work to do in order to bring those rates in line with other developed countries," Ursula Bauer, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said during a noon press conference Tuesday.
Another expert agreed.
"The report makes clear that the United States is a real outlier in teen pregnancy," said Bill Albert, Chief Program Office at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Even with these extraordinary declines it is still that case that 3 in 10 girls get pregnant in their teenage years and our rates remain far higher than other comparable countries," he said.
Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Wanda Barfield, director
of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health
Promotion's division of reproductive health, said that teens may
still not be getting the sex education they need to protect
"Teens are not receiving abstinence education, as well as sexual education," she said. "Only 50 percent of high school students are getting comprehensive sexual education including abstinence and contraception," Barfield added.
The new CDC report is based on 2009 data on those aged 15 to 19.
It finds that about 46 percent of teens say they've had sexual
intercourse and about 14 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys
say they do not use any type of birth control.
The report emphasizes the need for sex education as well as
talking with parents about pregnancy. In addition, teens who are
sexually active need access to contraception that is both
affordable and effective, the report's authors say.
In terms of contraception, condoms are recommended for boys, and
birth control pills, hormone shots, or an IUD, are the most
effective methods for girls, the team said.
According to the report, teen births also vary among racial and
Hispanics have the lowest use of contraceptives and also the
highest teen birth rates. In addition, black and Hispanic teens are
about 2.3 times more likely to have a baby than white teens. Among
black teen girls, 58 percent said they have had sex, compared to 45
percent of Hispanic girls and 45 percent of white girls, the
Among boys, 72 percent of black boys say they have had sex,
compared with 53 percent of Hispanic boys and 40 percent of white
Teen pregnancy also has emotional, physical and economic costs,
the CDC noted. For example:
According to the CDC, teen pregnancy and births cost taxpayers
about $3 billion each year, some $6 billion in lost taxes, and
almost $3 billion in other public costs.
Still, the number of very young parents continues to decline.
Not only have teen birth rates been going down, but there have also
been declines in the rates of abortions for all age groups
including teens, Barfield said.
"We are also seeing declined in the rate of high school students who are sexually active," she said, "and we are seeing increases in contraception among high school students who are sexually active."
Commenting on the report, Albert said that it "underscores
something that is counterintuitive to many adults: that the
progress the nation had made in preventing teen pregnancy has been
nothing short of extraordinary."
"When it comes to teens and sex, adults usually think the news is bad and probably getting worse," he added. "The bad news is our rates are still too high," Albert said.
To get teen pregnancy rates further down, parents need to get
more involved, Albert said. "In surveys, teens say it is parents,
not peers, not popular culture, that most influence their decisions
about sex," he said. "Parents have a role in talking early and
often with their kids about relationships, sex and contraception,"
"What's driven the teen pregnancy rate down is a combination of less sex and more contraception," Albert added. "So we need to encourage more of both."
Albert advises teens delaying sex is the first and "best option.
But that has to be coupled with a message for kids who are having
sex, that it is critical that they use contraception each time they
For more information on teen pregnancy, visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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