Teenaged pregnancy rates still declining

June 1, 2015

Births to teenaged girls took another impressive drop from 2012 to 2013, according to the annual report Health, United States, 2014, recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Births to teenaged girls took another impressive drop from 2012 to 2013, according to the annual report Health, United States, 2014, recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

For adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years, the birth rate dropped from 29.4 to 26.5 per 1000 girls in just 1 year. It’s a decline that has been mostly continuous over half a century. The rate is now about 70% below what it was in 1960. It has dropped 44% since 2000.

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Although adolescent birth rates continue to vary greatly across ethnic groups, all the groups reflected in the report continue to see sharp drops in birth rates.

For white adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, the rate has dropped by over half since 1990, to 24.9 in 2013. The rate for African American girls is down by 65% over that time to 39.1. The American Indian or Alaska Native rate is down almost 62% to 31.1. For Asians or Pacific Islanders, the drop has been 68% to 8.7, and for Hispanic or Latina teenagers, the decline since 1990 has been 58% to 41.7.

Adolescent girls aged younger than 18 years now have 2% of all live births in the United States as compared with 4.7% in 1990. Those aged 18 to 19 years now have a 5% birth rate compared with 8.1% in 1990.

Sexual activity

One thing that has changed is that adolescents are somewhat delaying initiating sex, although some of the trends have been up and down over more than 2 decades. The percentage of girls in the ninth grade who ever had intercourse was at 32.2% in 1991 and at 28.1% in 2013. For twelfth-grade girls, it was 65.1% in 1991 and 62.8% in 2013.

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Contraceptive use

In addition, the percentage of all women aged 15 to 19 years who are using contraception has increased from 24.2% in 1982 to 33.3% in the 2011-2013 period. There are differences in trends for racial and ethnic groups, however. For white women of that age, use rose from 23.6% to 40.1%. For African American teenagers of that age, use was 29.8% in 1982 and rose to 36.1% in 1995. However, the report says, it dropped to 21% in the 2011-2013 period. For the Hispanic or Latina adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, contraceptive use was at 26.1% in 1995, dipped to 20.4% in 2002, but was up again to 26.3% in the 2011-2013 period.

The data also show that the types of contraceptives teenaged girls use have varied over 3 decades. In 1982, for girls aged 15 to 19 years who were using any contraceptive method, 63.9% used the pill. However, that rate dropped to 43.8% in 1995, was back up to 53.6% in the 2006-2010 period, and continued to rise to 56.5% in 2011-2013.

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On the other hand, the percentage using condoms rose from 20.8% in 1982 to 45.8% in 1995. Unfortunately, it was down again to 34.1% in the 2011-2013 period.

The use of injectable contraception for this age group was at 9.7% in 1995, rose to 14.2% in 2002, but dropped again in 2011-2013 to 11.4%. However, since 1995, adolescent girls have been significantly more likely than women in any other age group to use injectables.

Surprisingly, 2.9% of those teenaged girls used the withdrawal method in 1982, but 17.9% used that method 2011-2013.

Breastfeeding

Women aged younger than 20 years who do become mothers have nearly always been less likely to breastfeed than mothers of other age groups. In the 1986-1988 period, only 28.4% breastfed. By 2002-2004, that age group was at 60% compared with, for example, 77.1% of mothers aged 30 to 44 years.

However, in about 3 years, the percentage of teenaged mothers who breastfed had fallen to 50.7%, compared with a fairly steady rate of 64% to 69% for breastfeeding for mothers of all age groups.

The report is on the website of the National Center for Health Statistics.

Ms Foxhall is a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area. She has nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that might have an interest in any part of this article.