Open conversations about teen pregnancy, the availability of more information in schools and in the media and greater access to contraception as well as more older teens still living at home, may be contributing factors to the latest decline in US teen birth rates. It also appears that teens are waiting to have sex longer and those who do are using more effective birth control, all factors that may be contributing to the decline in teen birth rates.
The National Center for Health Statistics branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, documented declines in three areas: The teen birth rate fell to 31.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 2011. Twenty years ago, that rate was 61.8 per 1,000 teenage girls. And, for the fifth straight year, the preterm birth rate dropped, to 11.7% in 2011 from 12.8 % in 2006. The rate for low-birth-weight babies also declined, from 8.15% in 2010 to 8.1 percent in 2011.
The drop in teen birth rates was even more significant for blacks and Hispanics, although the rates are still higher overall. In 1991, the rate of teen pregnancy among non-Hispanic blacks was 118.2 per 1,000 teens. By 2011, that number was down to 47.4 per 1,000 teens. In Hispanics, the 1991 rate was 104.6 per 1,000, and 49.4 per 1,000 teens in 2011.
The decline in teen birth rates is good news because teen pregnancy can increase risks for both the young mom and her baby. Pregnant teens are more likely to experience complications such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia, preeclampsia and premature birth as well as increased potential for poverty. The decline, while it is good news, still leaves the US teen birth rate much higher than the rates in other developed countries.