Teen Pregnancy: Facts and Prevention
Teen pregnancy is on the rise after over a decade of declining numbers. These new statistics demonstrate how important it is to discuss abstinence and safe sex practices with your teen. This article discusses the rising teen pregnancy rate, and ways to talk about this sensitive topic with your teenage son or daughter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one third of girls in the United States will get pregnant before the age of 20. Although sexual behavior among teens in the United States is similar to that of teens in other developed countries, teens in the U.S. are less likely to use effective forms of contraception. The result is that the U.S. has the second highest teen birth rate among 46 countries in the developed world. Since the early 1990s, more consistent condom use, increased use of hormonal contraceptives, and abstinence have helped to reduce the birth rate among teenagers some 34%. However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 2006 was the first year in more than a decade to see an increase in teenage pregnancies, suggesting that the downward trend may be reversing.
Findings from ACOG show that one third of teen pregnancies end in abortion. Meanwhile, a teen who chooses to carry her pregnancy to term runs the risk of experiencing complications, usually because she fails to obtain proper prenatal care. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a pregnant teen is less likely to gain the appropriate amount of weight and is more likely to smoke during her pregnancy. Because of this, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unintended Pregnancy, babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be premature, and almost 10% have a low birth weight. In addition, children born to teenage mothers have significantly lower cognitive test scores at age two, compared to children born of intended pregnancy.
Health problems to the fetus aren't the only risks a pregnant teen faces. According to ACOG, most teens (90%) who carry their pregnancy to term decide to raise their child themselves. Very few teens look to adoption as an option. Teen mothers are less likely to finish high school or get married, and are more likely to live in poverty, reducing their ability to properly care and provide for their children. Their low or nonexistent income makes it more likely that they will seek public assistance and depend on welfare. Teen fathers are also less likely to finish high school, and the jobs they hold will most likely be lower paying then those of men who wait to have children. ACOG has found that the daughters of teen mothers are more likely to become teen mothers themselves, while the sons of teen mothers have a higher chance of being incarcerated than children with older parents.