A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that though births to teens aged 15 to 17 have decreased, girls from this group in the US are still having nearly 1,700 births a week. The organization says this highlights the need for interventions targeted at teens.
Not only do teenage mothers face hardships, but their babies are also at risk for certain adverse outcomes, such as increased medical risks and emotional, social and financial costs.
The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report on teen pregnancy has now been posted online, and the organization notes that it was created to "continue the dialogue about teen pregnancy and its burden on our nation's youth."
To arrive at their findings, the researchers examined birth data from the National Vital Statistics System, as well as adolescent health behavior data from the National Survey of Family Growth.
"Although we have made significant progress reducing teen pregnancy, far too many teens are still having babies," says Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director.
"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."
From the report, the researchers found promising data, revealing that teen births in the US have declined over the last 20 years to the lowest level recorded in 2012. However, during that year, over 86,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 17 gave birth.
'Need for early interventions'
The CDC report reveals the teen birth rate has dropped, but officials say earlier interventions are still needed.
In detail, the team observed that, per 1,000 teens between 15-17 years old, births declined 63%, from 38.6 in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012.
Though 73% of teens in this age group had not yet had sex, of the more sexually active teens, over 80% had not had any formal sex education before they had sex for the first time.
Additionally, nearly 1 in 4 teens between these ages had never spoken with their parents or guardians about sex.
Broken down by ethnicity, the data show that the birth rate in teens of this age is highest for Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native teens.
"We need to provide young people with the support and opportunities they need to empower themselves," says Shanna Cox from CDC's Division of Reproductive Health. "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," she says, and adds:
"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."
Although the report revealed a promising statistic - that over 90% of teens used some form of contraception the last time they had sex - most of the methods they relied on were "among the least effective."
Because many differences in teen pregnancy rates persist between ethnic groups, the CDC suggest there is a need for interventions and services aimed at specific cultural groups.
The organization says parents and guardians play a particularly important role in helping teens avoid risky sexual behaviors, and that delivering prevention efforts earlier could encourage abstinence and birth control use.
In November 2013, Medical News Today reported on a study that suggested the preterm birth rate had dropped to a 15-year low.