Half a Million Girls: Teen Pregnancy Spotlight

What if I told you over half a million teenagers between the ages of 15-19 became pregnant in the United States a year? Would you believe it?  In 2010, 614,000 girls in the U.S. became pregnant, and that is a dramatic decrease from the highest teen pregnancy rate in the 1990s. It’s a shocking number.  This translates to about 57 pregnancies for every 1,000 teenage girls in the U.S. While this also represents a 51% decrease from the 1990s, it is still a staggering number.

pregnant-193850_640So, why the decrease? Experts point to increased sexual education and access to pregnancy prevention. A quick look at the geographical demographics shows you that the highest teen pregnancy rates occur in more politically conservative areas of the country, and lower rates occur in the northeast, with New Hampshire having the lowest rate in the U.S.

As the child of a teenage mom, I can personally attest to how difficult that life is. She left school early and never graduated with her class, struggled from one job to the next, and never fully realized her substantial potential.  Her life is happy now, but it’s been hard. Due to the personal nature of this issue, it’s been difficult to “choose a side” (so to speak), so I’ve decided to just present the numbers because everyone has their own opinion on how best to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies or, consequently, how to live the life of a teen mom.

Some stats:

1. Only 41% of teen moms ever complete high school, which sets them up for a life of poverty. A high school diploma is necessary for most well-paying jobs.

2. In the past 25 years, income for college graduates has increased 13%, and income for high school dropouts has decreased by 30%.

3. Children of teen moms are more likely to be born prematurely with low birthweight and associated health problems, and they are 50% more likely to repeat a grade.

4. 25% of teen moms have a 2nd birth within 24 months of the first child.

5. Daughters born to teen moms are 22% more likely to become teen mothers themselves, so the situation perpetuates itself.

Kids having kids is a difficult situation to handle emotionally in addition to the educational and financial hardships. The human brain is not fully mature until age 25, yet a girl can become pregnant in early adolescence. Girls who become moms so early often lose not only their ability to graduate high school, but they oftentimes lose their friends. This is because those friends are engaging in less responsibility-laden activities, like running track,  hanging out with friends, going to movies, etc. Being cut off from this can be a real shock to the girl’s social circle and can make her feel isolated. And if the girl was in a long-term relationship with the father of the child, quite often that relationship ends, and the teen mom is even more isolated. The trajectory of her life is drastically altered.

This is not to say that all stories of teen moms are so difficult, but the statistics show that most teen moms struggle for the rest of their lives, which brings up the topic of…

Prevention:

1. The non-hormonal IUD called Mirena is an under-utilized, very effective method of birth control. It is a copper wire in the shape of a “T” that is inserted into the uterus in a short non-surgical office visit at a woman’s OBGYN office. Most insurance covers this roughly $300 device that lasts 5-10 years with no chemicals or hormones. It prevents 99% of pregnancies but does not prevent STDs.

2. An alternative version of the Mirena IUD is the hormone-releasing one called ParaGuard. It emits a small dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy but also does not prevent STDs. Some women find that the hormones make them feel weird, or they don’t like chemicals to alter their body, so they choose the Mirena.

3. The pill. The issue with this is that you have to remember to take it daily, or you can become pregnant.

4. There are also under the skin injections, patches, rings, condoms (the only method that prevents STDs other than abstinence), and the “morning after pill.”

Here is a list of birth control from Planned Parenthood:

1. Abstinence

2. Birth Control Implant (Implanon and Nexplanon)

3. Birth Control Patch (Ortho Evra)

4. Birth Control Pills

5. Birth Control Shot (Depo-Provera)

6. Birth Control Sponge (Today Sponge)

7. Birth Control Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)

8. Cervical Cap (FemCap)

9. Condom

10. Diaphragm

11.Female Condom

12. Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FAMs)

13. IUD

14. Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception)

The point is to be informed. Knowledge truly is power. Clearly, millions of teens are having sex. If you’re one of them, please be informed and prepared. Talk to your inner circle, your doctor, your parents, your trusted adults.  It is harder and more life-altering than you think.

For perspective, here is a link to candid interviews with teen moms called Diary of a Teen Mom.

Jerri Sparks is a single mom (of three teens and one pre-teen) living in Western New York.  A former Congressional press secretary and a UCLA alum, Ms. Sparks now works in the BioPharma Research industry by day and is a freelance writer by night, advocating for the things she’s passionate about.  This may or may not involve Wonder Woman. Contact her at jerri@germmagazine.com.

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