Did you know that 1-in-4 girls will be pregnant at least one time before the age of 20? During 2016, reports show that, combined, there were over 900,000 pregnancies, births, and abortions amongst teen in the United States. On average, there are at least 10 million worldwide unintended pregnancies each year among adolescent girls aged 15-19. Less than two percent of teen aged American girls that get pregnant put their babies up for adoption. Almost half of teens get an abortion, while 58 percent of teens struggle to raise their babies while finishing up school or trying to hold down a job.
Teen moms tend to wait longer to get the prenatal help they need. During teen pregnancies, you increase the risk of having high blood pressure, anemia, premature birth, a baby with low birth weight, and more likely to experience postpartum depression. After giving birth many teens experience unemployment, which can lead to higher poverty rates. Sadly, teen pregnancies are associated with increased rates of alcohol and substance abuse and lower educational levels.
Since the 1990’s, teen pregnancies have drastically decreased, but are these record lows low enough? CDC statistics show that the peak teen birth rate in the US occurred in 1957, during the midst of the baby boom after World War II. Records show just under 100 births per 1,000 girls and women. In 2017, birth rates were 18.8 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19. The evidence suggest that these record lows are due to more teens waiting to become sexual active. Ninety percent of sexually active teens have used protection the last time they had sex. More girls have turned to a form of birth control as extra protection. Today, the US teen pregnancy rate is still substantially higher than other western industrialized nations.
So what causes teen pregnancies? I believe that lack of education and lack of knowledge about reproductive health are huge problems. Other causes can include inadequate access to care; being uneducated on how to access those services; sexual violence; having low self-esteem that can result from growing up poorly and not believing that you have more potential in reaching and achieving your goals.
Whether you have commercial insurance, Medicaid, or even no insurance at all, you can qualify for little to no cost birth control at many local health departments such as Gallia County, which offers full reproductive health services. Meigs County Health Department offers both male and female condoms for free to anyone in need during normal business hours (Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.). If you or someone you know is a teen and needs help on preventing teen pregnancy, reach out to your physician or local health department for guidance.
Kim Casci is the WIC Clerk at the Meigs County Health Department.