Although births to teens ages 15 to 17 have declined, they still represent more than a quarter of teen births, or nearly 1,700 a week, according to a CDC report.
This finding reinforces the need for targeted interventions to prevent teen pregnancy, the reports authors wrote in the April issue of Vital Signs.
Although we have made significant progress reducing teen pregnancy, far too many teens are still having babies, CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release.
Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social and economic outcomes. Efforts to prevent teen childbearing need to focus on evidence-based approaches to delaying sexual activity and increasing use of the most effective methods of contraception for those teens who are sexually active.
CDC researchers analyzed birth data from the National Vital Statistics System and adolescent health behavior data from the National Survey of Family Growth. They found:
The rate of births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 17 declined 63%, from 38.6 in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012.
The birth rate to younger teens is higher for Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native teens. In 2012, the birth rate per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 17 was 25.5 for Hispanic teens, 21.9 for non-Hispanic black teens, 17 for American Indian/Alaska Native teens, 8.4 for non-Hispanic white teens and 4.1 for Asian/Pacific Islander teens.
Most teens ages 15 to 17 (73%) had not had sex yet.
Nearly 1 in 4 teens in this age group never spoke with their parents or guardians about sex. More than 80% of sexually active teens in this age group had not received any formal sex education before they had sex for the first time.
More than 90% of teens used some form of contraception the last time they had sex, but most of them relied on methods that are among the least effective.
The report also underscores findings from previous CDC reports on teen pregnancy prevention:
Racial and ethnic disparities in teen pregnancy rates remain, suggesting the continued need for culturally appropriate interventions and services.
Sexually active teens remain at risk for pregnancy because they use less-effective contraceptives.
Earlier delivery of prevention efforts may further increase abstinence and birth control use.
Parents and guardians can play an influential role in helping preteens and teens avoid risky sexual behaviors.
We need to provide young people with the support and opportunities they need to empower themselves, Shanna Cox, MSPH, of the CDCs Division of Reproductive Health, said in the news release. Trying to balance the task of childbearing while trying to complete their high school education is a difficult set of circumstances, even with the help of family and others.
Teens who give birth are at increased risk of having a repeat birth while still a teenager. And these younger teens are less likely to earn a high school diploma or GED than older teens who give birth.
May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. More information about teen pregnancy: www.cdc.gov/TeenPregnancy
Vital Signs report: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm63e0408a1.htm