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Decade of Decline in U.S. Teen Pregnancies Ends

Experts concerned about possible trend reversal

TUESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- After more than a decade of decline, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate increased 3 percent in 2006, which led to a 4 percent rise in teen births and a 1 percent increase in teen abortions, a new study shows.

Between 1990 and 2005, there was a 41 percent decline in pregnancies among females aged 15 to 19 -- from a peak of 116.9 pregnancies per 1,000 girls to 69.5 per 1,000. Between 1991 and 2005, births among teen girls decreased 35 percent, while teen abortions declined 56 percent between 1988 and 2005.

However, all three trends reversed in 2006, said the report from the Guttmacher Institute, which focuses on sexual and reproductive health research, public education and policy.

In 2006, the pregnancy rate among teen girls was 71.5 per 1,000, or about 7 percent. Among the other findings:

  • Among black teen girls, the pregnancy rate decreased 45 percent (from 223.8 per 1,000 in 1990 to 122.7 in 2005), before rising to 126.3 per 1,000 in 2006.
  • Among Hispanic teen girls, the pregnancy rate declined 26 percent (from 169.7 per 1,000 in 1992 to 124.9 in 2005), before increasing to 126.6 per 1,000 in 2006.
  • Among non-Hispanic white teen girls, the pregnancy rate decreased 50 percent (from 86.6 per 1,000 in 1990 to 43.3 per 1,000 in 2005), before rising to 44.0 per 1,000 in 2006.

The much greater decline in the pregnancy rate among black teens resulted in the disappearance of the long-standing gap between blacks and Hispanics. However, there's still a large gap between whites and girls of color, the study said.

State level data for 2006 aren't available, but varied widely in 2005. New Mexico (93 per 1,000), Nevada (90), Arizona (89), Texas (88) and Mississippi (85) had the highest teen pregnancy rates, while the lowest rates were in New Hampshire (33), Vermont (40), North Dakota (46), Minnesota (47) and Maine (48).

Between 2000 and 2005, teen pregnancy rates declined in every state except North Dakota.

"It is too soon to tell whether the increase in the teen pregnancy rate between 2005 and 2006 is a short-term fluctuation, a more lasting stabilization or the beginning of a significant new trend, any of which would be of great concern," Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a news release from the institute. "Either way, it is clearly time to redouble our efforts to make sure our young people have the information, interpersonal skills and health services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to become sexually healthy adults."

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released late last year and published in the Dec. 21, 2009, online edition of Pediatrics, said the teen birth rate rose about 1 percent in 2007, the second year in a row there was an increase.

There's no clear reason for the upward trend in teen births, Paul D. Sutton, a geographer/demographer at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, told HealthDay News. Some experts believe the teen birth rate decline that occurred in the 1990s may have been due to effective pregnancy prevention programs.

More information

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has more about teen pregnancy.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Guttmacher Institute, news release, Jan. 26, 2010

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