Teen pregnancy is an important issue. There are health risks for the baby and children born to teenage mothers are more likely to suffer health, social, and emotional problems. Women who become pregnant during their teens have an increased risk for complications, such as premature labor and socioeconomic consequences as well.

Teen pregnancy rates in the United States declined steadily from 1991 to 2005—from 60 out of 1000 teenagers in 1991 to 40.5 out of 1000 in 2005. However, the teen pregnancy rate increased for two years in a row in 2006 and 2007—to more than 42 out of 1000. Approximately one-third of young women in the United States become pregnant during their teens. More than 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended and unintentional. The highest teen birth rate occurs in Hispanic women (83 out of 1000 in 2006).

Declining teen pregnancy rates are thought to be attributed to more effective birth control practice and decreased sexual activity among teens. The most dramatic reduction in teen pregnancy—23%—has occurred among African American teenagers.

Still, teenage pregnancy rates remain high and approximately 1 million teenage girls become pregnant each year in the United States. About 13% of U.S. births involve teen mothers and about 25% of teenage girls who give birth have another baby within 2 years. To lower teen pregnancy rates, older children must be educated about sex and about the consequences of pregnancy.

Other Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy

  • Teenage births are associated with lower annual income for the mother. Eighty percent of teen mothers must rely on welfare at some point.
  • Teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school. Only about one-third of teen mothers obtain a high school diploma.
  • Teenage pregnancies are associated with increased rates of alcohol and substance abuse, lower educational level, and reduced earning potential in teen fathers.
  • In the United States, the annual cost of teen pregnancies from lost tax revenues, public assistance, child health care, foster care, and involvement with the criminal justice system is estimated to be about $7 billion.

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