Teen Pregnancy Rates and Sexual Activity Statistics

Teenage girl with pregnancy test
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In an ideal world, no one has babies until they're in a stable, loving and committed relationship, their education completed and finances stable. In the real world, unplanned pregnancies happen. But teen pregnancy figures have been dropping in the United States in recent years. Some 330,000 U.S. teens, ages 15 to 19, had babies in 2011, a figure the Centers for Disease Control calls a new low. "Reasons for the declines are not clear, (but) teens seem to be less sexually active," according to the most recent report, released in 2013, "and more of those who are sexually active seem to be using birth control than in previous years.

How big is a change it? In 2011, the birth rate was 31.3 births for every 1,000 teen girls. In 1991, it was 61.8. As you probably guessed, teen pregnancies are primarily an issue for older teens: 18- and 19-year-olds accounted for 71% of those pregnancies. But overall, we're looking at statistics that say that one in seven teenage girls will give birth before she turns 20. These are averages, of course. The birth rate in Southern states, especially Missouri and Arkansas, are considerably higher than in other parts of the country and race and socio-economic circumstances play a role too. As for that one in seven (14.4%) figure? If you break it out by race and ethnicity, it's 10% for white teens, 21% for African-Americans and 24% for Latinos.

Why does this matter so much? Just half the girls who get pregnant as teens end up earning a high school diploma. You might expect pregnancy to derail academic studies to a certain degree, but that 50% figure is much more startling that than. Half the nation's 22-year-olds, who got pregnant in their teens, never finished high school.

If you have a teenage daughter, you and she both need to know that young women who do not use any form of birth control and are sexually active have a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year. And each year, nearly 19 million people will contract a sexually transmitted disease - 9 million of those new cases will be among young adults, ages 15-24. The human papillomavirus (HPV) accounts for half of those cases. Talk it through, consult your family doctor and encourage your daughter to make wise choices.