U.S. teen birthrate rises, reversing trend

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Teenage births have increased in the U.S. for the first time in 14 years, according to numbers released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The findings are “remarkable” and “statistically significant,” said Stephanie Ventura, chief of reproductive statistics at the NCHS, a federal agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Some people may speculate there’s ‘prevention fatigue’ out there. Perhaps teens aren’t paying attention anymore to prevention programs, or have changed their attitude. Maybe prevention programs need to change. But we don’t have any statistics about that,” she said.

Another demographic also increased: More than 1.6 million babies were born to unmarried women in 2006, the highest number ever recorded, up 8 percent since 2005 and 20 percent from 2002 when “recent steep increases” began, the NCHS said.

More than half of the states in the nation saw an increase in teen births, meanwhile.

“The number of births to teenagers 15-19 years rose 5 percent to 435,436 in 2006, compared with 414,593 in 2005. This was the largest single-year increase in the number since 1989-1990,” the report said.

The teen birthrates were highest among Hispanics females, followed by blacks, American Indians, whites and Asians.

Rates increased significantly in the 12-month period in 26 states, “representing nearly every region of the country,” the NCHS found. The birthrates were highest in Mississippi, followed by New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. They were the lowest in New Hampshire.

“It takes a lot for a state rate change to be significant in one year. We saw those changes in 26 states. In the previous year, only Tennessee saw a change,” observed Ms. Ventura.

Teen birthrates in 21 states remained unchanged; only three states (New York, North Dakota and Rhode Island) plus the District reported declines in teen births.

“Teenage pregnancy and childbearing are ongoing public concerns and the focus of considerable public policy debate. Babies born to teenage mothers are at elevated risk of poor birth outcomes, including higher rates of low birth weight, preterm birth, and death in infancy,” the study said, noting the public costs of teen mothers top $9 billion annually.

The 2006 statistics also revealed that the most babies were born in August, most frequently on a Wednesday; 99 percent were born in a hospital. There were 102,919 more males born than females, the highest number of “excess” male births since 1963. In addition, there were 355 sets of quadruplets and 67 sets of quintuplets.

Older mothers have made their mark.

Among women in their 40s, the birthrate has tripled since 1990. A record 105,539 women in that age group became mothers in 2006. Births to women 50 and older increased 18 percent in 2006, to 494, up from 417 in 2005 - and 144 in 1997.

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