Teen pregnancy rates drop

By Brittany Lavin
March 22, 2007

Teen pregnancy rates in the United States have hit an all-time low, a study found. The study also found that the rates of Caesarean sections increased and that birth rates for mothers aged 30 and older have steadily risen since 2005.

These figures are from the Annual Summary of Vital Statistics and were published in the February issue of “Pediatrics.”

“These are the three most remarkable findings,” Brady Hamilton, lead author of the report and a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, said. “The rate of teen births fell to 40.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19. That’s the lowest rate ever recorded in 65 years for which we have consistent data. It’s quite impressive.”

The other significant finding showed that 30.2 percent of births in 2005 were Caesarean sections, a four percent increase from 2004. A Caesarean section is considered major surgery, as the physician cuts into a women’s abdomen to remove the baby.

Reasons for this increase include the discouragement of vaginal births as well as women giving birth at older ages. The help of assisted reproductive technology could be another possibility, as it sometimes results in multiple births that require a Caesarean section. Patient preference is another factor.

“A lot of women want C-sections in order to escape the pain of child birth, while others need it because of complications,” Bridget Freeman, a sophomore graphic design major, said.

Several explanations are also probably behind the decline in teen births, which is mostly concentrated among girls aged 15 to 17. These findings may show that the public is being better educated and being provided with better health care.

“The best evidence suggests that this reflects a combination of factors, including programs promoting abstinence as well as those promoting safe sex,” Hamilton said.

“I think the rates have decreased because parents are realizing that they need to give their kids birth control,” Derrick Horn, a sophomore political science major, said.

Another report done in 2006 by Dr. John Santelli, department chair and professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, showed that abstinence promotion alone is inadequate in helping teens prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“Eighty-six percent of the recent decline in U.S. teen pregnancy rates is the result of improved contraceptive use, while the other 14 percent can be attributed to teens waiting longer to start having sex,” Santelli said. This is according to an article in Science Daily.

“There’s definitely a lot more awareness,” Freeman said. “However, I don’t think it’s about teens abstaining so much as making better contraceptive choices.”

Both of these studies raise vital questions regarding the value of funding abstinence-only education programs that prohibit information about the benefits of contraception.

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Brittany Lavin

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