In Monday’s issue of the journal Pediatrics, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that births to teen mothers are now at a record low in the United States – down to a new rate of 31.3 births per 1,000 girls and young mothers aged 15 to 19.
According to the newest data, teenage birth rates fell 8 percent in a single year from 2010 to 2011. Since 2007, they’ve dropped 25 percent. And since 1991, teen birth rates are down by 49 percent, says the federal government.
“There is lots of good news in the report,” NCHS statistician Brady Hamilton, who led the study.
Brady refers to the lower teen birth rate as good news because teenage pregnancies are rarely planned, nor are most teenage parents ready to cope with the responsibility of raising a baby.
The study looks at numbers alone and doesn't address changes in teen behavior, although other research suggests the reason teen birth rates are down is because it’s easier for teens to get birth control, including longer acting birth control methods like IUDs and hormonal birth control drug implants, which are recommended as first-line contraceptives for teens by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Moreover, the Obama administration rules now requires health insurers to provide free birth control, even without a co-pay. Plus, fewer doctors require teenagers to get full pelvic exams before prescribing birth control, as new federal guidelines say such exams aren’t necessary before the age of 21.
Despite the record low teen birth rates in the U.S., the nation’s teen birth rates remain much higher than in other developed countries. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. teen birth rate in 2010 was 37.9 per 1,000 women, compared to Russia, which had the next-highest rate of 30.2 per 1,000. In Switzerland, the rate was only 4.3 births per 1,000 teen women that same year – and in Britain it was 25 per 1,000.