Teen births drop to historic lows


Teen births drop to historic lows


Less than 10 percent of all births in Ohio were to teen mothers in 2011, the lowest level since 1990 when teens births were 14 percent. 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011* 2012** Births 19 and younger 15,853 15,654 15,517 15,713 16,107 16,576 16,385 15,604 13,663 12,189 7,788 Total Ohio births 147,832 148,483 148,855 148,255 150,510 150,784 148,592 144,569 139,034 137,200 94,022 *Preliminary totals **Through October 2012 SOURCE: Ohio Department of Health

Teen births in Ohio fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2011, dropping to the lowest level in at least 22 years, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of preliminary state data.

About 12,189 women 19 and younger gave birth in Ohio last year, down 11 percent from 2010, and it was the fewest births recorded since the state began keeping track in 1990, according to preliminary data from the Ohio Department of Health.

Teen births continue to decline because more young people are using contraceptives, delaying sexual activity and utilizing more effective forms of birth control, health officials said.

Most teenagers are unprepared for the financial and emotional hardships involved in parenthood, and having a child in adolescence increases the chances that a mother will live in poverty and not finish school. Children born to teen mothers also are more likely to have emotional, behavioral and academic issues.

“Kids don’t make good parents,” said Greg Ramey, vice president of outpatient services and a pediatric psychologist with Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. “It is hard enough being a parent when you are 25 or 30 — and hopefully have a little bit of financial security and emotional stability — but it is real tough to be a parent when you are a teenager.”

Teen births in Ohio fell 11 percent between 2010 and 2011, after declining 12 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to health department data. The last two years saw the largest percentage declines since at least 1990, and teen births in Ohio have declined in 17 out of the last 22 years. Teen births are on track to fall again this year, with the state recording only 7,788 births to women 19 and younger through late October.

Teen births also account for a shrinking share of overall births, which have also trended downward. About 9 percent of babies born in Ohio in 2011 belonged to mothers 19 and younger, down from 14 percent in 1990.

From 2007 to 2011, the U.S. birth rate for females aged 15–19 years declined 25 percent, from 41.5 to 31.3 births per 1,000, the lowest rate ever recorded for the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The sharp decline in teen births is linked to a growing number of young Ohioans delaying sex until they are older and sexually active teens using birth control, said Bill Albert, chief program officer with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington, D.C.

“A large proportion of Americans incorrectly believe that the teen pregnancy rate is going up,” Albert said. “Believe it or not, more teens are delaying sexual activity, they are having fewer partners, and those who are having sex are using contraception better.”

Teenagers are not known for good decision making, but they are becoming more responsible about sexual activity, Albert said. Teenagers certainly still desire sex, but many waiting until they are older, find the right partner or have a committed relationship, he said.

In 2011, about 47 percent of high school students ever had sexual intercourse, down from 54 percent in 1991, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Between 2006 and 2010, 57 percent of females 15 to 19 never had sex, an increase from 49 percent in 1995, according to a different CDC report released in May.

“The credit goes to teens themselves — they are being more responsible,” Albert said.

Albert said young people seem to be responding to information about the dangers of sexual activity, which include sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. He said students in public schools receive at least some education about the risks of sexual intercourse, and young people can easily access important information online. He said reality TV shows such as MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” unflinchingly explore the adversity and stress of having children at a young age. He said the TV shows continue to have a positive impact on young people’s views of unprotected sex.

The abortion rate and teen pregnancy rates continue to decline, the CDC said. Ohio saw a 12 percent decline in abortions last year, the largest percentage decline since 1992, the state health department said.

A growing share of young people who are sexually active are using contraception consistently and effectively, Ramey said.

About 13 percent of sexually active high school students did not use birth control while having sex in 2011, down from 16.5 percent in 1991, according to CDC survey data.

Condoms are the least effective method of birth control among young people, because many teens do not use the items properly or have to make snap decisions during romantic moments about whether to use them, officials said.

But teens are increasingly showing better judgment by using more effective birth control.

In 2010, about 60 percent of sexually active teens reported using “highly effective” contraceptive methods — such as intrauterine devices or hormonal methods — up from 47 percent in 1995, the CDC said.

The decline in teen births is a positive trend, because teen mothers usually earn less than their peers, and are more likely to live in poverty, health officials said. Only half of teen mothers have a high school diploma by age 22, compared to 90 percent of women who did not give birth in adolescence, the CDC said. Children of teen mothers have a greater likelihood of developing emotional, behavioral, academic and health issues, and they have lower lifetime educational prospects.

“Trying to decrease the birth rate among teenage moms is highly regarded as a goal we must strive for, because those kids don’t do well, and nor do the mothers do well,” Ramey said.

Teen mothers may face formidable obstacles, but some will manage to balance the demands of parenthood with work and social obligations, officials said.

Erika Randall, 21, of Dayton, said she had her son, Michael, when she was 17. She said the first two years of his life featured a string of painful challenges and experiences.

She said she grew apart from some friends and loved ones. She was evicted from her apartment because she could not pay the bills. She canceled Michael’s first Christmas, because she could not afford any presents. And she was single and juggling life responsibilities all on her own.

But Randall graduated high school, enrolled at Edison Community College and plans to attend Wright State University with the hope of becoming a nurse. She said she is in a committed relationship, her housing situation has stabilized and her finances have improved.

“It was hard, and it’s still hard,” she said. “But I am doing a lot better financially, and I’ve learned a lot.”

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