When teen pregnancy rates are published it is commonly assumed the teens are getting pregnant for the first time, but that is not the case according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20% of teen mothers who give birth have already given birth. In 2010, about 365,000 teens gave birth and for 67,000 of those teens, it was not the first time.
The push to reduce teen pregnancy rates is not necessary medical in nature. Teens can have a successful, healthy pregnancy, but the impact on quality of life and education can be overwhelming and does not stop with the teen. Family members, especially immediate family like the grandmothers, grandfathers and siblings, also face life changes. From a medical perspective, infants born to teens experiencing a repeat pregnancy are at increased risk of low birth weight and prematurity.
Efforts to reduce teen pregnancy and repeat teen pregnancy have caused statistically significant reductions in both areas. The reduction in repeat teen pregnancies from 2007 to 2010 was about six percent, according to the National Vital Statistics System, but that reduction is not enough.
The highest rate of repeat teen pregnancy occurs in the American Indian and Alaskan populations at 21.6%. Second and third spots are held by Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks at 20.9% and 20.4%, respectively. In the United States, Texas carries the highest burden of repeat teen pregnancies with a 22% rate. New Hampshire is on the opposite end of the spectrum at 10%.
Preventing repeat teen pregnancy is all about contraception. While up to 91% of teen mothers use contraception in the postpartum period, only 22% are using the most effective form of contraception. Ensuring teen mothers understand contraceptive options and checking up often to make sure effective contraception is used is crucial to the prevention of repeat teen pregnancy.
The CDC believes education is also extremely important. Educating male and female teens on the importance of avoiding pregnancy through abstinence is the first choice, but if teens are sexually active this education may fall on deaf ears. Sexually active teens need to be a part of an intervention program that teaches about the different forms of contraception and the effectiveness of those contraceptive choices.