Over the past several years teen pregnancy rates have been declining. In 2017, there were close to 200,000 babies born to those between the ages of 15 and 19, which is a significant drop from the previous year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the birth rate of 18.8 for every 100,000 women is a 6% drop for 18 and 19-year- olds and a 10% drop for 15, 16 and 17-year-olds. While the rates are dropping, they’re still significantly higher than other nations and differ across certain demographics.
Most experts believe the declining birth rates are due to improved education, access to birth control and teenagers avoiding sex until they are older. Statistics show that teen birth rates decreased 6% for non-Hispanic blacks, 8% for non-Hispanic whites, 9% for Hispanics, 15% for non-Hispanic Asians, and 6% for American Indians.
Risk Factors Associated With Teen Pregnancy
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure. They also lack the necessary education to make an informed decision about sex. When teenagers don’t have access to informative reproductive resources, sexual health services,
Along with a lack of education, teenagers face a unique set of challenges that are often linked to teen pregnancy. These include:
- Alcohol and drug use
- Lack of knowledge about contraception or sex
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of future goals
- Sexual activity at a younger age
- Sexual abuse victims
- Poor performance in school
- Negative attitude about contraception
Social risk factors include; poor peer relationships, sexually active friends, dating older people at a younger age and peer pressure to engage in sexual activity. With all these issues coming at teens every single day, it’s often hard to resist the pressure.
Poor family conditions can also increase the risks of teen pregnancy. Teenagers who have better parental relationships are more likely to talk about sex and get the information needed to prevent pregnancy. Those who fear their parents are at a much higher risk. Additional issues include:
- Negative interactions with family
- Poor or limited parental supervision
- Family history of teen pregnancies
- Single-parent families
- Significant unresolved conflict between family members
Some teenagers are vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse. Without contraception or protection, these occurrences can also lead to teenage pregnancy.
The Dangers of Teen Pregnancy
Although the female body can reproduce and give birth as soon as menstruation starts, it doesn’t mean a teen is emotionally, mentally and/or physically ready. Teens who get pregnant before the age of 15 are vulnerable to conditions such as anemia, premature birth, low birth weight, higher infant mortality rates, pregnancy-induced hypertension/high blood pressure, and a possible risk of the baby’s head being bigger than the pelvic opening. This can cause problems during the birth process.
Teenagers may also deal with depression and poor nutrition while they are pregnant. If they have more than one sexual partner or haven’t been practicing safe sex, they may be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases that can be harmful to the baby if left untreated.
How to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Educating your teen about contraception, sex and reproduction is the best way to protect teenagers from getting pregnant. Experts believe that only 53% of boys and 65% of girls receive formal sex education on contraception and abstinence. What’s worse, only 27% of boys and 44% of girls have discussed abstinence, sex, and birth control with their parents.
As teen birth rates decrease, it is not time to assume the problem is fixed. Teens need access to educational resources and contraception options when they make the choice to become sexually active. Community and faith-based programs are available for those who don’t have the resources at home to learn about sex and contraception. An honest conversation with a teenager about what is considered risky behavior can solve many problems and ensure they’re using their body responsibly and respectfully.