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Far too many young teens still having babies, CDC reports

4/25/2014, 9:14 p.m.

Younger teens still account for one in four teen births, and racial and ethnic disparities in teen pregnancy rates remain, the CDC reports.

Although births to teens 15 to 17 have declined, they still represent more than a quarter of teen births – nearly 1,700 births a week, according to the April issue of Vital Signs, underscoring the need for targeted interventions to prevent teen pregnancy.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC’s director, said there has been significant progress in reducing teen pregnancy, but far too many teens are still having babies.

“Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social and economic outcomes,” Frieden said. “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.

Findings include:

n The rate of births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 17 years declined 63 percent, from 38.6 in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012.

n 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 years 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.

n Most teens ages 15-17 (73 percent) had not had sex yet.

n Nearly one in 4 teens in this age group never spoke with their parents or guardians about sex.

n More than 80 percent had not received any formal sex education before they had sex for the first time.

n More than 90 percent 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.

n Racial and ethnic disparities in teen pregnancy rates remain, suggesting the continued need for culturally appropriate interventions and services.

n Parents and guardians can play an influential role in helping pre-teens and teens avoid risky sexual behaviors.

Shanna Cox, a scientist with the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, said teens need more help to make informed choices.

“We need to provide young people with the support and opportunities they need to empower themselves,” she said. “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.”

May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/TeenPregnancy/.