Teenage pregnancy, also known as adolescent pregnancy, is pregnancy in a female under the age of 20, according to the WHO, but others say it is under the age of 18 or 17. Pregnancy can occur with sexual intercourse after the start of ovulation, which can be before the first menstrual period (menarche) but usually occurs after the onset of periods. In well-nourished girls, the first period usually takes place around the age of 12 or 13.
- Birth rates for teenagers differ sharply among race and Hispanic ethnicity population subgroups. In 2003 the overall rate was highest for Mexican teeangers, 93.2 per 1,000 aged 15-19 years, and lowest for API teenagers, 17.4. In-between were 64.7 for non-Hispanic black teenagers, 60.8 for Puerto Ricans, 53.1 for American Indians, and 27.4 for non-Hispanic white teenagers.
Whereas rates have fallen for adolescents in all groups over the 1991-2003 period, the most striking declines are for non-Hispanic black teenagers. Overall, their rate fell 45 percent during this period, but the rate for non-Hispanic black teenagers aged 15-17 years has fallen more than one-half, from 86.1 per 1,000 in 1991 to 38.7 in 2003 (figure 3, table A)State-specific teenage birth rates are discussed later in this report.
Teenage pregnancy rates have fallen substantially since 1990, generally mirroring the declines in the teenage birth rates. Pregnancy rates are computed from the sums of live births, induced abortions, and fetal losses. Currently, teenage pregnancy rates are available through 2000, the most recent year for which detailed national abortion estimates are available. The teenage pregnancy rate in 2000 was 84.5 per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years, the lowest rate reported since 1976, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCHS series of national estimates first became available. The rate has dropped 27 percent since its 1990 peak (116.3). The decline in the pregnancy rate during 1990-2000 is reflected in declines in live births and induced abortions, with larger declines reported for abortions.
- CDC, "Births: Final Data for 2003", National Vital Statistics Reports, (September 8, 2005), Volume 54, Number 2, p.5
- The rate of teenage pregnancy continues to rise despite increased access to contraception and sex education programs for teenagers. 35% of sexually active female teenagers become pregnant before age 19; 59% of those pregnant teenagers continue their pregnancies through delivery. Approximately 90% of adolescent mothers in the US keep their babies. Adolescent pregnancy is a multifaceted problem with grave consequences involving a higher incidence of physical risks to mother and infant and the potential for longterm detrimental psychological and sociological effects on infant and parents. Based on the assumption that beliefs have a powerful influence on behavior, data were gathered from urban pregnant teenagers regarding their beliefs related to pregnancy and its prevention. In depth interviews were conducted with 20 Native American Indian women (1/2 from an upper Midwestern city and 1/2 from a city in the Pacific Northwest). 18 white and 17 black women from the same Pacific Northwest city were also interviewed. Certain patterns emerged that indicated intercultural differences in the group. The areas of difference included beliefs about prevention of pregnancy and contraception, significance of being a mother at an early age, and kinds of support systems available within their social network. These beliefs were influential in their becoming pregnant as well as during their pregnancy. All of the young women were knowledgeable about contraceptives and their availability. Beliefs about them and when they should be used, and how they worked varied among the 3 cultural groups. American Indian women did not believe contraception should be used until after the 1st baby was born. The black teenager believed that contraception was appropriate, but birth control pills and IUDs were unacceptable because they altered the menstrual cycle and thus would cause illness. Beliefs of the white women stemmed from their religious backgrounds. The American Indian women believed that within their culture, high value was placed on early pregnancy and becoming pregnant validated one's feminine role. Black women did not perceive negative sanctions within their culture if they did not meet the ideal norm of education followed by employment and marriage and children. Becoming a mother at a young age, although not highly desirable, had a fairly high level of acceptance. The white women believed that pregnancy at a young age was undesirable. When the background of the client and the practitioner differ, practitioners must be aware of folk beliefs to allow open communication. When these beliefs are assessed and incorporated into a care plan, a more effective program for pregnancy prevention will result.
- B Horn, “Cultural beliefs and teenage pregnancy”, Nurse Pract. 1983 Sep;8(8):35, 39, 74.
- Teen pregnancy has declined due to stagnating sexual activity rates and increases in contraceptive use. Still, between 800,000 and 900,000 adolescents become pregnant each year in America. Many who become parents during adolescence are unable to achieve positive health, economic, and social well-being outcomes, particularly around educational success. This article reviews the empirical literature regarding the effectiveness of comprehensive and abstinence-only sexuality education, which heavily supports the provision of comprehensive sexuality education. It also examines the essential role that Title X, the national family planning policy, can play in increasing implementation of comprehensive sexuality education programs both within schools and in the community. School social workers can better serve the individuals and the communities they work with by increasing their knowledge of effective prevention programs and advocating policies that support such programs.
- McCave, Emily L. “Comprehensive Sexuality Education vs. Abstinence-Only Sexuality Education: The Need for Evidence-Based Research and Practice”, School Social Work Journal, v32 n1 p14-28 Fall 2007
- In some states with parental notification requirements, there are provisions for judicial bypass of the requirement; however, the process for securing a bypass is daunting and unworkable for many girls and adolescents, requiring them to demonstrate that they are “1) sufficiently mature and well enough informed to make an abortion decision without parental involvement, and/or that 2) parental involvement is not in their best interests.” Perversely, these requirements can result in a judicial finding that a minor is “not sufficiently mature” to make an informed abortion decision, therefore forcing the child to remain pregnant and give birth.
- Foley Hoag LLP on behalf of the Global Justice Center, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, National Birth Equity Collaborative, Physicians for Human Rights, Pregnancy Justice, “UN Special Procedures Letter US Abortion Rights”, (March 2, 2023), footnote 48, p.9
- Girls and adolescents are at increased risk of life-threatening consequences owing to delayed reproductive healthcare. Because girls and adolescents experience serious pregnancy-related complications at a higher rate than adults, including, trauma to organs, pregnant adolescents are particularly at risk when healthcare providers delay care. Despite this heightened vulnerability, none of the state abortion bans recognize an exception specifically for adolescent pregnancy. Even before Dobbs, young people under 18 in at least 36 states faced “parental involvement” requirements forcing them to notify and/or seek permission from a parent to get an abortion. These restrictions remain in place in more than 20 states where abortion is still legal. While most young people who have abortions voluntarily involve at least one parent in their decision, forced parental involvement laws put young people’s health and safety at risk. Young people without a supportive parent to involve in their abortion decision — for example, those who “fear physical or emotional abuse, being kicked out of the home, alienation from their families or other deterioration of family relationships or being forced to continue a pregnancy against their will” — generally have the option to go through a judicial bypass process to request permission from a judge to access abortion care. However, the process for securing a bypass is daunting and unworkable for many young people. A recent study by Human Rights Watch revealed that Florida judges denied more than one in eight young people's petitions in 2020-2021. These children and adolescents were then forced to continue a pregnancy against their wishes, travel outside the state, or seek a way to manage abortion outside the health system.
- Foley Hoag LLP on behalf of the Global Justice Center, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, National Birth Equity Collaborative, Physicians for Human Rights, Pregnancy Justice, “UN Special Procedures Letter US Abortion Rights”, (March 2, 2023), pp.9-10
- Certain social and economic costs can result from teen pregnancy. Teenage mothers are less likely to finish high school and are more likely than their peers to live in poverty, depend on public assistance, and be in poor health. Their children are more likely to suffer health and cognitive disadvantages, come in contact with the child welfare and correctional systems, live in poverty, drop out of high school and become teen parents themselves. These costs add up, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which estimates that teen childbearing costs taxpayers at least $9.4 billion annually. Between 1991 and 2015, the teen birth rate dropped 64%, resulting in approximately $4.4 billion in public savings in one year alone.
- “State Policies on Sex Education in Schools”, NCSL.org, (10/1/2020)
- Initiation of sexual intercourse puts a teenager at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. After declining between 1991 and 2001 (54% to 46%), sexual experience among U.S. high school students has remained at 46–47% from 2001 to 2005. Over 750 000 U.S. adolescents (aged 15–19) become pregnant each year, and over 28% of these pregnancies end in abortion. Most adolescent pregnancies (82%) are unintended. A recent analysis of the decline in U.S. adolescent pregnancy rates between the 1995 and 2002 National Surveys of Family Growth demonstrated that 86% of the decline was due to improved contraceptive use (less nonuse, increased use of condoms and highly effective hormonal methods, and increased use of dual methods), and only 14% due to declines in sexual behavior. Although pregnancy rates have declined, the United States still leads the developed world in adolescent (aged 15–19) birth rates, with 42 births per 1000 women in 2004. By comparison, adolescents in the United Kingdom had 27 births per 1000 women; in Italy, seven births per 1000 women; and in the Netherlands, five births per 1000 women.
- Mary A. Ott and John S. Santelli, “Abstinence and abstinence-only education”, Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Oct; 19(5): 446–452, (2018 Apr 24)
- Professor Kingsley Davis of the United States Commission on Population Growth and the American Future states that "The current belief that illegitimacy will be reduced if teenage girls are given an effective contraceptive is an extension of the same reasoning that created the problem in the first place. It reflects an unwillingness to face problems of social control and social discipline, while trusting some technological device to extricate society from its difficulties. The irony is that the illegitimacy rise occurred precisely while contraceptive use was becoming more, rather than less, widespread and respectable."
The illegitimacy rate for births among teenaged girls hovered around five to seven percent for decades, until about 1960. Between 1960 and 1970, it doubled as the birth control pill helped usher in the 'Sexual Revolution.' After 1970, the teenage illegitimacy rate literally exploded as comprehensive sex education programs and school-based clinics were introduced.
The overall illegitimacy rate for all children born in the United States was 5 percent in 1960. This rate has more than quintupled to more than 28%.
- Pro-Life Activist's Encyclopedia, American Life League, “The Birth Control Pill: Enabler of the Sexual Revolution“, ETWN.
- In many countries, a general pattern emerged, in which the abortion rate was low for women younger than 20, peaked among those aged 20–24 and declined with each successive age-group. In Eastern Europe, abortion rates remained high for women aged 25–34 and descended more gradually with successive age-groups than rates in Western Europe and other developed countries. Survey findings for the Western and Central Asian countries, where abortion rates were among the highest in the world, show that rates tended to peak among women aged 25–34 (not shown). The age-specific abortion pattern in these regions reflects that many women have abortions to limit family size rather than to delay the start of childbearing.
The abortion rate among 20–24-year-olds was higher in the United States than in other developed countries; however, U.S. rates among women aged 30 or older were lower than those in many developed countries. By 2003, the teenage abortion rate in the United States (22 per 1,000 women) was comparable to that in England and Wales and Sweden. This situation marks a change from the mid-1990s, when this rate was substantially higher in the United States than in these countries (22 and 18, respectively); the change is due in part to a decline in the adolescent abortion rate in the United States between 1996 and 2003. Over the same period, however, the adolescent abortion rate rose in Sweden—a trend that Swedish researchers attribute partly to cuts in funding for sex education and increases in the incidence of casual sex without contraceptive use. Nevertheless, the English-speaking developed countries have higher adolescent abortion rates than many other developed countries, with the exception of the former Soviet states. This difference is ascribed to the more pragmatic approach to adolescent sexuality in other developed countries, including easier access to contraceptive services for adolescents.
- Sedgh G, Henshaw SK, Singh S, Bankole A, Drescher J (September 2007). "Legal abortion worldwide: incidence and recent trends". International Family Planning Perspectives. 33 (3): 106–16. doi:10.1363/3310607. PMID 17938093. Archived from the original on 19 August 2009.