A look at the current teen pregnancy rates shows that teenage pregnancy rates have declined within the past decades. However, the United States continues to have an extremely high teen pregnancy rate compared to other western industrialized countries.
Unfortunately, teen pregnancy brings medical risks and other consequences to teen mothers, so it’s important that measures are taken to reduce the number of teen pregnancy stories in this country. Here’s a closer look at teen pregnancy statistics, information on the teen pregnancy rate by state, risks and consequences of teen pregnancy, and prevention strategies.
General Teen Pregnancy Statistics
Although the rate of teen pregnancy has declined in the U.S., there are still around 820,000 teen pregnancies every year according to TeenHelp.com. Out of those teen pregnancies, About.com notes that 82% of them are actually unintended pregnancies. TeenHelp.com also notes that about a quarter of teenage mothers end up having another child within just 24 months after having the first child. PregnantTeenHelp.org notes that teen girls who have the highest risk for teen pregnancy include:
- Teens who live in a single parent home
- Teens with low economic backgrounds
- Teens living in a low class area
- Minority teens
- Teens who have a mother who was pregnant as a teenager
Teen Pregnancy Rates By State
A look at the teen pregnancy rates by state shows that these rates vary quite a bit across the country. According to FoxNews.com, the state with the highest teen pregnancy rate is New Mexico, and New Hampshire has the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in the United States. Other states that have higher than average teen pregnancy rates include Mississippi, Texas, Nevada, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The following is a list of teen pregnancy rates by state, listed from highest to lowest, from LiveScience.
- New Mexico – 93 per 1,000
- Mississippi – 90 per 1,000
- Texas – 85 per 1,000
- Nevada – 84 per 1,000
- Arkansas – 82 per 1,000
- Arizona – 82 per 1,000
- Delaware – 81 per 1,000
- Louisiana – 80 per 1,000
- Oklahoma – 80 per 1,000
- Georgia – 80 per 1,000
- South Carolina – 76 per1,000
- Hawaii – 76 per 1,000
- Tennessee – 76 per 1,000
- Alabama – 73 per 1,000
- Florida – 73 per 1,000
- North Carolina – 72 per 1,000
- California – 72 per 1,000
- New York – 71 per 1,000
- Kentucky – 71 per 1,000
- Alaska – 69 per 1,000
- Illinois – 68 per 1,000
- Wyoming – 68 per 1,000
- Colorado – 66 per 1,000
- West Virginia – 65 per 1,000
- Missouri – 65 per 1,000
- Maryland – 63 per 1,000
- Kansas – 63 per 1,000
- Ohio – 62 per 1,000
- New Jersey – 62 per 1,000
- Washington – 60 per 1,000
- Oregon – 60 per 1,000
- Montana – 59 per 1,000
- Indiana – 58 per 1,000
- Michigan – 58 per 1,000
- Idaho – 57 per 1,000
- Pennsylvania – 56 per1,000
- Virginia – 56 per 1,000
- Connecticut – 55 per 1,000
- Rhode Island – 53 per 1,000
- South Dakota – 53 per 1,000
- Iowa – 51 per1,000
- Nebraska – 50 per 1,000
- Utah – 48 per 1,000
- Wisconsin – 45 per 1,000
- Maine – 43 per 1,000
- Massachusetts – 42 per 1,000
- North Dakota – 42 per 1,000
- Minnesota – 42 per 1,000
- Vermont – 38 per 1,000
- New Hampshire – 33 per 1,000
Medical Risks of Teen Pregnancy
Since many pregnant teens often face a lack of prenatal care, they often deal with some significant medical risks. Prenatal care is especially important for expectant mothers during the first trimester of pregnancy. With proper prenatal care, expectant mothers are screened for potential medical problems, the baby’s growth is monitored, and any complications are dealt with quickly. Lack of prenatal care, along with the young age of teen moms, results in certain medical risks, such as the following:
- High Blood Pressure – Teenagers have a higher risk of dealing with high blood pressure when they are pregnant, which is known as pregnancy-induced hypertension. High blood pressure can negatively affect the mother’s health, as well as the baby’s health.
- Preeclampsia – Another medical risk of teen pregnancy is preeclampsia. This condition involves high blood pressure, but it also includes too much protein in the urine, organ damage, and swelling of the mother’s face and hands. This is a very dangerous medical problem for mothers, and it could disrupt the growth of the unborn baby too.
- Postpartum Depression – Teenagers have a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression, according to WebMD.com. This depression may keep young teen mothers from taking good care of their baby, but the condition is treatable.
- Problems with Isolation and Loneliness – Many teens feel like they are alone and they don’t have the support of friends and family members. When this occurs, pregnant teens are not as likely to get enough rest and exercise, and they are less likely to eat poorly. This can negatively affect the teen mother’s health. Teens without support are also less likely to head to their prenatal visits, which also negatively affects the teen’s health.
Risks to Children Born to Teen Mothers
Teen moms face some serious health risks, but babies born to teen mothers are also at risk for certain problems. Common health risks for babies born to teen moms include:
- Premature Birth – According to WebMD, premature birth is a common health risk for babies born to teenage mothers. A baby delivered before 37 weeks is considered to be a premature baby. Sometimes bed rest and medications can be used to stop premature labor. However, sometimes the baby must be delivered for the health of the infant or mother. Babies who are born premature have a great risk of cognitive, digestive, vision, respiratory, and other problems.
- Low Birth Weight – HealthCommunities.com notes that teen mothers often fail to gain enough weight while they are pregnant. This often results in low birth weight for the baby. A low birth weight raises the risk of infant mortality, as well as several childhood and infant disorders. Babies who have a low birth weight often have organs that haven’t fully developed, which may result in various health complications.
- Lack of Healthcare, Nutrition and Social Stimulation – Children who are born to teen moms are also less likely to receive the healthcare, nutrition and social stimulation they require. This raises the risk of certain childhood health problems and may also result in low academic achievement.
Teen Pregnancy – The Consequences
Teen pregnancy also results in some serious consequences. In fact, one of the best ways to reduce current teen pregnancy rates is to educate teens in the consequences that come along with teen pregnancy. Some of the consequences of teenage pregnancy include:
- Teen moms have a higher high school dropout rate. In fact, only about 33% of teen moms end up obtaining their high school diploma, according to HealthCommunities.com.
- PregnantTeenHelp.org notes that teenage pregnancy costs the U.S. about $7 billion each year in child health care, public assistance, lost tax revenue and foster care.
- Mothers who give birth as teens generally have a lower annual income.
- Teen pregnancy may result in an increased risk of substance abuse and alcohol abuse for teen mothers and fathers.
Sex Education and Teen Pregnancy
Sex education plays an important part in teen pregnancy prevention. However, studies published by Guttmacher.org show that about a third of teens haven’t received formal instruction on contraception and how to use it. The study also found that many teens never have any contraception instruction before their first sexual experience. 75% of teens between 18-19 report that they know very little about contraceptive pills, and 41% report that they know little about using condoms.
Sex education and contraceptive education are both effective ways to reduce teen pregnancy rates. HealthCommunities.com notes that only 69% of U.S. school districts are offering sex education. This shows that the availability of sex education for teens much be improved. Teens need to be educated on how to properly use contraceptives and how to avoid sexual behavior that is very risky. Sex education also needs to teach the consequences of having children at a young age.
How to Prevent Teen Pregnancy – Tips for Parents
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has found that parents have a lot of influence on teens, which means that parents can do a lot to help lower teenage pregnancy rates. For parents wondering how to prevent teen pregnancy, the following essential tips may prove helpful.
- Tip #1 – Start Communicating Sexual Attitudes and Values to Children – Parents need to determine their own sexual attitudes and values, and then they can start communicating those attitudes and values to children.
- Tip #2 – Begin Talking About Sex Early – Don’t wait until kids are hearing about sex at school to talk to kids about sex. Begin talking about sex early. Parents also need to ensure they talk about ex often, keeping an open, honest conversation going. Of course, conversations should be age-appropriate, but they should take place often. Focus on having a two-way conversation, not just a lecture. Find out what your kids think, answer their questions, and make sure to address any misconceptions. When talking about sex with kids and teens, don’t be afraid to have an opinion, letting your kids know where you stand.
- Tip #3 – Ensure Your Teens Have Rules and Supervision – The lack of rules and supervision will be a problem that could result in unwanted behavior from teens. Parents need to have standards of behavior, curfews and established rules for teens. It’s also important to know where teens are and who they are with when they go out.
- Tip #4 – Don’t Allow Teens to Date Too Early – Frequent, steady dating may result in trouble for younger teens. Group dates are better options for younger teens. Set dating rules early so your teen knows the rules early.
- Tip #5 – Work with Teens to Set Meaningful Life Goals – Parents should help teens come up with their own goals and dreams for the future. Teens that know they have a bright future are more likely to delay sex and teen pregnancy. Help your teen learn what it will take to meet their life goals. For example, a child that wants to be a doctor will need to take pre-med and then go on to med school to become a doctor.
- Tip #6 – Pay Attention to What Teens Read and Watch – Movies, magazines, the internet and television often put out messages you don’t want your teen to have about sex. Know what teens are reading and watching, and if certain things don’t meet the family’s values, make sure you discuss this with your teens. While it’s impossible to control everything a teen hears and sees, making certain things off limits in your home is a viable option.
- Tip #7 – Build a Strong Relationship With Your Teen – Parents need to have a strong, open relationship with their child early, and that relationship should be nurtured so it is strong when kids become teens. A strong relationship with your teen makes it easier to use the other tips to help teens avoid teen pregnancy.