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Questions and Answers – Teen Pregnancy


How many young women get pregnant each year?  

The number of young women who become pregnant each year and the corresponding rate of teen pregnancy is estimated by adding together the number of reported births, abortions, and estimated fetal loss (miscarriage and still births) to young women ages 15–19.  The most recent year for which these calculations exist is 2002. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2002 there were an estimated 757,000 pregnancies among young women ages 15–19 which resulted in 425,000 live births, 215,000 induced abortions, and 117,000 fetal losses.

The overall teenage pregnancy rate was estimated at 76.4 pregnancies per 1,000 young women ages 15–19 years.   

Are the teen pregnancy rates going up or down?     

According to the Guttmacher Institute the teen pregnancy rate went down in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1988 and 2002.  The CDC explains that the 2002 rate is an historic low for the Nation.

However, teen pregnancy rates did not decline at an equal rate among all racial groups.  Between 1990 and 2002, the teen pregnancy rate declined 40% among Black young women, 34% among white young women, and 19% among Latina young women.    

The teen birth rate, though different, was also in decline throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, but between 2005 and 2006 the rate increased for the first time in years.  More recent data for teen pregnancy is not available so we don’t yet know whether we will see these numbers spike as well.  For more information see the questions  “Is the teen birth rate going up or down?”  below. (add link to question if each question is anchored)

What factors contributed to the decrease in teen pregnancy rates?

As the teen pregnancy rates fell, proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs insisted that their restrictive approach—simply telling teens that sexual behavior outside of marriage was unacceptable—was responsible for these new numbers.  Research, however, suggests otherwise.  According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, less than 15 percent of the decline in teen pregnancy between 1995 and 2002 was due to increased abstinence among young people. The majority of the decline (86 percent), was due to changes in behavior among those young people who were sexually active including increased use of contraception and the use of more reliable methods of contraception.   There is no proof that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs had any impact on the teen pregnancy rate.  In fact, research has found that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are not effective in reducing teen sexual behavior. 

How many teenagers give birth each year?

According to the latest data from the CDC, 435,427 teenage women ages 15–19 gave birth in 2006.  This include 138,920 15–17 year olds and 196,507 18–19 year old.  In addition, 6,405 girls ages 10–14 also gave birth in 2006. 

From this, the CDC calculated a teen birth rate of 41.9 births per 1,000 young women ages 15–19 in 2006.  The teen birth rate is measured by counting the number of reported births every year to teenage females.  Because virtually all births take place in hospitals and are reported in the United States, this is a very accurate number. 

Are there differences in the teen birth rate in various racial and ethnic groups?

The teen birth rate varies widely between racial groups.  In 2006, the teen birth rate was 83.0 per 1,000 Hispanic women ages 15–19, 63.7 per 1,000 Black women ages 15–19, 54.7 per 1,000 American Indian or Alaskan Native women ages 15–19, 26.6 per 1,000 white women ages 15–19,  and 16.7 per 1,000 Asian and Pacific Islander women ages15–19.   These data clearly show that race and socioeconomic issues play a role in adolescent pregnancy and that underserved communities are disproportionately impacted.

Is the teen birth rate going up or down?

The teen birth rate had been declining for many years. It reached a high of 61.8 births per 1,000 women ages 15–19 in 1991 and began to steadily decrease after that.  By 2002, the teen birth rate was down 35 percent to 40.5 per 1,000 young women ages 15–19. Between 2005 and 2006, however, the teen birthrate went up for the first time in over a decade, rising by 3 percent.    

What options are available to young women who face an unintended pregnancy?  

Women, regardless of their age, have three basic options when they become pregnant.  They can carry their pregnancy to term and raise the child; they can carry their pregnancy to term and allow the child to be adopted; or they can end their pregnancy by having an abortion. 

There are many legitimate health care providers and organizations that will help young women weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option and make the decision that is right for them.  Unfortunately, in recent years there has been a proliferation of crisis pregnancy centers.  These organizations, often religious in nature, typically advertise as offering a host of services to women facing unintended pregnancies and then use fear, shame, and propaganda to prevent these young women from exercising their right to choose legal abortion. 

Are teen pregnancy- prevention programs effective?

There is a growing body of research that suggests programs that teach young people about both abstinence and contraception can help teens delay sex and improve contraceptive use.  Some of these programs have been shown to prevent pregnancy or STD transmission among young people. See Emerging Answers 2007 for the most recent research on effective programs and see ETR Associates’ Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention for suggestion of evidence-based programs. 

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