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Teen Pregnancy


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Why This Measure?

Many individual, family, school, and community variables combine to affect the likelihood that teens will become pregnant. When they do, these vulnerable girls are most often left on their own to make a host of challenging adult decisions — about carrying and keeping the baby, health care, education, and how to live and support themselves and their babies. The short- and long-term social and economic costs associated with teen pregnancy are high for the mother and, even more critically, for the child. While pregnant, these young women are less likely to access early prenatal care and are more likely to drink, smoke, and use other drugs. Most teen parents are living in poverty when their children are born. Despite the best intentions, without family support and/or social services, most pregnant teens can’t completely overcome these and other challenges to providing a stable, supportive atmosphere for their children during the critical first years.

Lead Indicators

Missoula Co. Teen Pregnancy Rate per 1000

Ages 15-19

Source: Trends in Montana Teen Pregnancies and Their Outcomes: 1981-1995, MDPHHS 1997

Trend Better Data Rating Availablevvv Reliablevvv Relevantvvv

How are we doing?

We’re doing better, but there are still some significant concerns. The 1997 teen pregnancy rate for Missoula County was 48 per 1,000 female teenagers, and reflects a slow decline over the last 15 years. Can we do better? Some trends include an increasing percentage of non-marital births and a slightly decreasing pregnancy rate. However, county averages hide concerns about specific portions of the teen population which warrant more scrutiny and attention.

Pregnancies: Age 17 and Under

Missoula Co. Pregnancies

Age 17 and Under

We were tempted to use this as the measure but decided that it alone might be misleading. For perspective, in 1985, 58 15- to 17-year-olds got pregnant, resulting in 29 live births, and 15 years later, we are at about half that rate. Statewide from 1981 to 1995, 32.5% of the teen pregnancies have involved girls younger than 18. Over the past five years the Missoula rate of births for young women of color has been three times higher than that for their white counterparts (Trends, MT DPHHS, 1997).

National Birth Rates for Teenagers 15-19 Decline Between 1991 and 1998

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary data on births to teenage women in the United States for 1998 in the October, 1999 issue of the National Vital Statistics Reports.

Findings from the study include:

Births to Females Ages 15-19

The 1998 birth rate for U.S. teenagers 15-19 years old was 51.1 live births per 1,000 women.

The 1998 birth rate is 2% lower than it was in 1997 and 18% lower than in 1991.

In 1998, there were 483,220 births to women ages 15-19. This number is slightly higher than the number of births to teenagers in 1997 (483,220). This reflects an increase in the number of teenage females.

Births to Females Ages 15-17

The birth rate for teenagers ages 15-17 was 30 births per 1,000 women.

The birth rate for this age group fell 5% from 1997 and has fallen 21% since 1991. This decline essentially reverses an increase in the birth rate to women ages 15-17 that occurred is between 1986

(31 births per 1,000 women) and 1991 (39 births per 1,000 women).

In 1998, there were 173,252 births to women ages 15-17. This is the lowest number of births to this age group since 1987.

Births to Females Ages 18-19

The birth rate for women ages 18-19 was 82 births per 1,000 women in 1998.

The rate declined 2% among 18-19 year olds since 1997 and has dropped 13% since its 1992 high of 94 births per 1,000 women.

Births to Females Under the Age of 15

The birth rate among teenagers 10-14 years old fell to 1 birth per 1,000 women. This is its lowest level since 1969.

The number of births to teenagers 10-14 years old fell to 9,481 births in 1998, down 6% from 1997 and 27% from its recent high of 12,901 births in 1994.

Marital Status

78.8% of all teenage births were to unmarried women. This porportion is up slightly from 78.2% in 1997.

Race and Ethnicity

Birth rates have declined 26% for Black women ages 15-19 from 116 births per 1,000 women in 1991 to 85 births per 1,000 women in 1998. This rate is lower than any year since 1960 when data on Black women first became available.

The birth rate for Hispanic women ages 15-19 has declined steadily in recent years, dropping 13% from 108 births per 1,000 women in 1994 to 94 births per 1,000 women in 1998.

Pregnancy Rate

The pregnancy rate is computed by combining information on live births with information on induced abortions and fetal losses. The most recent year for which this data available is 1996.

^ The estimated teen pregnancy rate in 1996 was 99 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15-19, down 15% from its high point of 117 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 1991.

Between 1991 and 1998, birth rates for teenagers 15-19 years old have declined for all ages, races, and ethnicities. In addition, birth rates have declined in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands.

Despite this positive trend, birth rates remain much higher for Black and Hispanic teenagers, than for other groups.

For more information:S. J. Ventura et al., "Declines in Teenage Birth Rates, 1991-98: Update of National and State Trends," National Vital Statistics Reports, October 1999, v. 47, n. 26, pp. 1-12.

Who Are the Dads?

"A 1991 study of more than 300,000 teenage mothers around the country by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that 67% were impregnated by men over 20. Moreover, researchers have known for decades that a large number of teen mothers were victims of childhood sexual abuse, usually inflicted by parents or other household adults . . . 74% of girls under age 14 who have had sex are victims of rape" (Family Life Educator, Winter 1996/1997) Here in Missoula, Planned Parenthood is also seeing many teen pregnancies that involve older males.

Births v. Abortions

In 1997, the teen birth rate per 1,000 females for Missoula County was 25; Montana’s was 43; and the national rate was 52. For a better perspective of the U. S. rate: Vermont’s rate was the lowest at 27; Mississippi’s the highest at 74 (Births: Final Data for 1997, CDC, 1999).

Apparently, Missoula’s teens consider abortion a viable option, and readily available services likely contribute to our rate. In comparison, two out of three pregnancies are carried to birth in Montana.


Births and Abortions

Missoula Co. Females Aged 15-19

High-Cost Infants

Teen births represent 12% of all live births in Montana. However, more than 1/4 of all "high cost" infants are born to teens (1995 Montana Kids Count). High cost infants, usually of low birth weight, are so called because of the extent of medical and social services required by the child well into maturity, and often for the child’s parent(s) as well.

Why Are U.S. Rates So High?

Since 1970, adolescent birth rates have been declining in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. However, the U.S. rate of adolescent births remains higher than any other industrialized nation. Among girls younger than 15, the U.S. rate is five times higher. This is even true when taking racial diversity into account. Abortion rates and the age of initiation of sexual activity are also pretty much the same in other industrialized countries.

Only a few major differences have been identified. First, the high rate of poverty in the U.S. is virtually unknown in the other industrialized countries. Second, contraceptives are much more easily and inexpensively available to adolescents in other countries. Third, societal attitudes towards adolescent sexuality are much more condemning in the U.S.; for example, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation to have government-sponsored programs to discourage kids from being sexually active (Prevention Researcher, Winter 1997). Additionally, sexuality education is accepted in many other countries as both healthy and necessary.



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