Teen birth rate at a seven decade low: Report

Figures reveal that fewer teenagers are giving birth and the numbers are a seventy year low. Reasons are not specified but two decades of public-health initiatives to curb teenage pregnancy may be paying off feel experts. Report co author Brady Hamilton, a statistician at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics said, “One of the biggest highlights is the continuing decline in teen births -- down to record lows.”

The National Center for Health Statistics report released this Tuesday says that the teen birth-rate fell to 39.1 births per 1,000 teenagers ages 15 to 19 in 2009. This is a 6% drop from 2008 and the lowest rate since 1940. Rates in 1990 were 61.8 per 1,000. Hispanics were the group that saw the greatest fall – by 10% but still stands at 70.1 births per 1,000.

Birth rates in the US in general have fallen. 41% of births were to unmarried mothers in 2009, up from 40.6% in 2008. Birth rates among women in their twenties have fallen by 7% - lowest since 1973. Also preterm birth rates have fallen for three years in a row but caesarean section rate reached a new high of 32.9%. It has increased every year since 1996, when the rate was 20.7%. Low birth weight deliveries remained almost the same at less than 8.2 percent in 2009, down slightly from the record high of 8.3 in 2006.

Speaking on decline of teen pregnancy Dr. Lawrence B. Friedman, a professor of paediatrics and director of the division of adolescent medicine at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine, said it could reflect a drop in vaginal intercourse. He added, “That doesn't mean decreases in sexual activity, but just alternate intimacies that teenagers are discovering or rediscovering… There is also increased use of effective contraception.”

Joyce A. Martin, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics and report co-author, said the drop in preterm births is encouraging. She said, “It’s the third year in a row we have seen a decline, and it’s fairly substantial.” However, the increase in caesarean deliveries is “disappointing,” she said. She added, “There are so many women who have already had a caesarean, so once you have had a caesarean the chances are you will have another one… It’s not clear from these data whether there has been a moderation or stabilization or decline in women having a first caesarean - that would be very encouraging, but we don’t have that information.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

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Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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