Teenage birth rate in the U.S. falls

Encouraging new data shows the teenage birth rate in the U.S. fell to the lowest level on record in 2009 - but is still one of the highest in developed countries. Numbers dropped to 39.1 births per 1,000 females from 61.8 births in 1991, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The latest figures record that 410,000 teenage girls aged 15 to 19 years old gave birth in the United States in 2009. The rate is especially high among black and Hispanic teens. Geography plays a key role too with young mothers more common in some states than others.

According to the UN Demographic Yearbook 2008, the teen birth rate in Canada was 14 per 1,000 girls. In Japan it was 5 per 1,000 and in Singapore around 6 per 1,000 girls. In France and Germany in 2008, around 10 babies were born to every 1,000 girls age 15 to 19. The highest teen birth rate in Europe was in Bulgaria, where 43.4 babies were born per 1,000 girls. These figures from the US come from National Center for Health Statistics report. And a CDCP study showed that virginity is making a comeback with fewer young Americans having sex.

The study added, “'Teen childbearing also perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage. Teen mothers are less likely to finish high school, and their children are more likely to have low school achievement, drop out of high school, and give birth themselves as teens.” The report revealed that each year teen births costs the country approximately $6 billion in lost tax revenue and nearly $3 billion in public expenditure. However, these costs are $6.7 billion lower than they would have been had teen childbearing not decreased. In 2008, a total of 4,247,694 births were registered in the United States, two per cent less the in 2007.

In the US the highest rates were in Mississippi with 64.2 births for every 1,000 females 15 to 19 years of age. New Mexico recorded 63.9 births for every 1,000 and Texas saw 60.7 births for every 1,000. The general fertility rate declined one per cent  to 68.6 per 1,000. The teenage birth rate declined two per cent to 41.5 per 1,000. Birth rates for women 20 to 39 years were down 1 to 3 per cent, whereas the birth rate for women 40-44 rose to the highest level reported in more than 40 years. The total fertility rate declined two per cent to 2,084.5 per 1,000 women. All measures of unmarried childbearing reached record levels; 40.6 per cent of births were to unmarried women in 2008. Similarly the Caesarean delivery rate rose again to 32.3 per cent. The premature birth rate declined for the second straight year to 12.3 per cent; the low birthweight rate was down very slightly. The twin birth rate increased one per cent to 32.6 per 1,000; the triplet and higher order multiple birth rate was stable. Meanwhile, almost a third of all 15 to 24 year olds - 29 per cent - have never had sex, up seven per cent from the year before, according to the report by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. These findings were based on interviews with approximately 13,500 men and women between the ages of 15 to 44. Health scientist at the NCHS and lead author of the study Anjani Chandra said that teen sex trends are changing.

“Though we have made progress in reducing teen pregnancy over the past 20 years, still far too many teens are having babies,” CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in a statement. “Preventing teen pregnancy can protect the health and quality of life of teenagers, their children, and their families throughout the United States.”

“I don't think teens really understand the cost,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology specializing in teen pregnancy at the University of Cincinnati. “Many are enrolled in the Medicaid and WIC [Women, Infants and Children] programs to help them during pregnancy. But teen pregnancy is associated with poor high school performance or dropout and decreased earnings later on in life.”

The report highlights the importance of sex and birth control education -- a curriculum that varies widely between states. “I think we definitely need a more formal approach to how we implement education strategies, whether they're for parents or in the school system,” Thompson said.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

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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