According to a new report from the CDC, the teen birth rate has gone up for the first time in 14 years. The teen birth rate rose from 40.5 live births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years in 2005 to 41.9 births per 1,000 in 2006. This is a 3 percent increase and the first increase in teen births since 1991. Interestingly, it is not just teen births that are on the rise, the fertility rate in general went up by two percent. Motherhood seems to be popular right now and teenagers may be getting caught up in this baby boom. Most teen pregnancies are unplanned but as many as 20 percent of teenagers were trying to conceive when they got pregnant.
Why the sudden increase? The teen birth rate has been declining since 1991, but between 2005 and 2006 there was an increase. Should we be alarmed or is this just coincidence? The experts really don’t have an answer for why the teen birth rate is increasing. Some think this is just a fluke year, some put the blame on the abstinence only based sex education programs, and others just don’t know what to think. Still, it seems that this is a trend to be concerned about. When you see popular teen stars like Jamie Lynn Spears getting pregnant, it makes you wonder if this trend is going to continue.
Teen moms offer some insight on the matter. When we asked Justmommies’ teen moms their thoughts on the subject they offered a wide variety of answers but there were a few key points that almost all the teen moms agreed on. According to our teen moms, parents seem to play a big role in the teen pregnancy rate. Most of the teens said that their parents did not talk to them about birth control or having sex. From what our teens suggest, they were looking to their parents, and not just the school system, for guidance on this subject. The overwhelming message that we heard from teen moms was that parents need to talk to their kids about this.
Our teen moms also said that they felt that having a baby as a teen was becoming socially acceptable. “It's not as socially unacceptable as it once was. Many more teens are actually TTC [trying to conceive],” explains one young mother. Being a teen mom was once frowned upon among other teens and while it still may be seen poorly among older mothers, it appears the teens may have their own social standards.
Another factor in the teen pregnancy rate, according to the teens we talked to, is proper education on using birth control and the availability of birth control. Many of the teens felt that they were not given enough education on birth control and how to use it correctly. There was some division amongst the teens on how adequate their school’s education was. Some felt that they were well informed and others felt that they were just told to “not do it” and given very little information.
The teens we talked to were mostly using condoms or the withdrawal method for birth control. Getting on birth control pills or talking to your parents about sex can be intimidating for a teen and many were afraid to broach the subject with their parents. One teen mom says, “The more open the parents are about talking about it, I think the easier it will be for the teens to talk to them about it and tell them when they become sexually active so they can get on some kind of birth control.”
When asked if they thought being a teen mom would have a negative impact in their lives, it was answered with almost a unanimous no. Being a young mom is more challenging, but these moms feel that motherhood was a turning point in their lives and felt that becoming a mom has made them stronger.
We have gleaned from our teen moms that they do not feel that being a teen mom is a problem, at least not for them. Many feel that being a mom has changed them for the better and while this may be true for them, the burden of teen motherhood is shared with all of us. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, in 2004 each teen pregnant mother costs the government an average of $1430 per year. While some teens are able to support their babies independently or with the help of their family, many others rely on government assisted healthcare or food assistance programs.
Moreover, while the teens did not feel that their pregnancies contributed to any negative consequences, research proves otherwise. Teen moms are less likely to complete their high school education. Only 40 percent of moms that have kids before they are eighteen finish highschool. Teen moms also account for a little over half of the moms on welfare. (52% of welfare moms had their first child as a teen.)
While we agree that teen moms can be just as loving and caring parents as the next mom, the problem of teen pregnancy is still a concern. Seeing the teen birth rate rising is troubling. Our teen moms have, however, given us a few ideas on what can be done about the problem such as better education on birth control and proper use of it, easier access to birth control, and parents being involved in educating their child on sex, birth control and teen pregnancy.