Teen Pregnancy - The Importance of Prevention

April 8th, 2011

During the past 20 years, the rate of teen girls having children has dropped by about 40%, but approximately 1,100 teen girls still give birth everyday.

More than 400,000 teen girls give birth each year in the United States. TV, music, the Internet, and other popular youth media tend to glamorize teens having sexual intercourse and teen parenting, but the reality is starkly different. Having a child during the teen years carries high costs—emotionally, physically, and financially—to the mother, father, child, and community.

Parents, educators, public health and medical professionals, and community organizations all have a role to play in reducing teen pregnancy.

 

Breaking the Cycle of Teen Pregnancy

Preventing teen pregnancy is a priority because of its huge economic, social, and health costs on teen parents and their families.
  • Teen birth rates in the U.S. are unacceptably high, about 4% of all teenage girls give birth each year. Teen births represent 10% of the 4 million births each year.
  • Teen birth rates in the U.S. are up to 9 times higher than in most other developed countries.
  • Hispanic and black teen girls are about 2–3 times more likely to give birth than white teen girls. The percentage of black teen girls ever having sex also is higher than for Hispanic and white teen girls, while the percentage of black teen boys ever having sex is greater than Hispanics or whites.
  • Girls born to teen parents are almost 33% more likely to become teen parents themselves, continuing the cycle of teen pregnancy.
  • About 50% of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22 compared with 90% of teen girls who do not give birth.
  • Teen childbearing costs U.S. taxpayers about $9 billion each year
Prevention efforts work by teaching teens how and why to delay starting sex and steps that they need to take if they become sexually active. Key components include sex education that has been shown to work, support for parent-teen communication about preventing pregnancy, and ready access to sexual and reproductive health services. Sexually active teens should have access to effective and affordable birth control. Among high school students;
  • Nearly half have had sexual intercourse (about 46% for both girls and boys), a decrease of about 20% from 1991.
  • About 12% of sexually active boys and girls did not use birth control at the last time they had sex, compared to 16% in 1991.
  • About 9% of sexually active teens used two methods (such as a condom with with birth control pills or Depo-Provera, an injectable birth control) to avoid pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • About 65% of girls and 53% of boys received formal sex education about both abstinence and birth control.
  • About 44% of girls and 27% of boys had spoken with their parents about both abstinence and birth control.

What You Can Do to Reduce Teen Pregnancy

Health care providers can:

  • Talk openly to teen boys and girls about how to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Provide teen-friendly, culturally-appropriate services for sexual and reproductive health.
  • Increase the availability of all forms of birth control.  
  • Offer teens long-acting reversible birth control (e.g., IUDs or implants).

Communities can:

  • Provide opportunities for teens to be engaged in supervised activities after school.
  • Promote youth development programs that keep teens in school and teach life skills.
  • Make it easy for teens that are already sexually active to get services, including affordable, effective birth control, other medical care, and sex education that has been proven to work.
  • Support youth development programs for teens at risk. This includes girls who have already been pregnant, and boys and girls who have a parent or sibling who has been a teen parent, live in foster care, or attend school or programs for troubled teens.

Parents, guardians and caregivers can:

  • Talk to your teens about delaying sex, avoiding pregnancy, birth control, having respectful relationships, and being aware of dating violence.
  • Get to know the parents of your teen's friends and be involved with what's going on in their lives.
  • Talk to community leaders about the need for effective programs that prevent teen pregnancy and address overall sexual and reproductive health.

Teens can:

  • Talk openly about sexual health issues with parents, other adults you trust, and peers.
  • Resist peer pressure to start having sex. Support friends who make this choice.
  • Use condoms consistently and correctly each time you have sex.
  • Learn as much as you can about sexual and reproductive health, so you can make smart decisions about your future.
  • Enjoy your teen years! Prepare for your best possible future by avoiding the responsibilities that come with pregnancy and parenting.