- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2017

The amount of teen pregnancies reached an all time low in 2016, from 20.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19, down 9 percent from the year before and down 51 percent since 2007.

The report was compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, which releases quarterly and annual data on “key vital statistic indicators” for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

The data included findings that the number of births in the U.S. declined by 1 percent from 2015, “the second year that the number of births has declined after the increase in 2014,” the authors wrote, noting that it is a record low for the country.

While a low national birthrate is seen as a negative indication of national health, a low teen birthrate is seen as positive improvements in both female and infant health.

Birth rates for teenagers declined for two age groups, ages 15 and 17 and 18 and 19. For females aged 10 through 14, there were 0.2 births per 1,000 in 2016, unchanged from 2015, the authors noted.

For Bill Albert, the chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, he said this is an example of teenagers matching their intention with behavior, calling them the “cautious generation.”

“Leave aside the data we talk about. Smoking among teenagers is down, drinking is down, any number of measures that teenagers are being a bit more reflective about their present and future. We really need to credit teenagers themselves,” he said.

Projects that the National Campaign is intimately involved with are the MTV reality shows “16 and pregnant” and “Teen Mom,” which in a 2014 study by economists at University of Maryland and Wellesley College was credited as the reason for a dramatic decline in unplanned teen pregnancies between 2009, when the show debuted, and 2010.

The documentary shows — much like their name suggests — the challenges of being a teenage mother, often times showing young women living in dysfunctional homes themselves, struggling to finish school after the birth of their child and abandoned by the teenage boys who impregnated them in the first place.

While some of the subjects of the show have made a career out of the reality show and are constant fodder for the tabloids, Mr. Albert said the cautionary message still holds true.

“Kids see these shows as far more sobering than salacious,” he said. Concluding that, “they are, in many ways, the cautious generation.”

The data also tracked birth rates for age groups from 20 until 49, finding that the rate of women age 29 and younger becoming pregnant is decreasing, while pregnancies for women between the ages of 30 and 49 are increasing.

For Dr. Paul Jarris, the chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that advocates for maternal and infant health, the increase of pregnancies in older women carries risks for the babies that can be countered with better overall health initiatives at all stages of life.

“As women age, it’s very important they are able to become healthy before they become pregnant — again the need for them to have care before pregnancy, so their diabetes is in control, their hypertension is in control and yet that’s not something we do in this country. We wait until they’re pregnant to give them health care, to give them health insurance,” Dr. Jarris said.

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