The birth rate for teenagers in the United States dropped to the lowest ever, with the fewest number of babies born to the age group since 1946, as health-awareness efforts paid off, U.S. officials said.
The rate fell 9 percent in 2010 from a year earlier, and 44 percent since 1991, according to the report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 34.3 births for every 1,000 15- to 19-year-old females in 2010.
Even with the decline, the U.S. has one of the highest birth rates for teenagers in industrialized countries, the CDC said. Teen childbearing is estimated to cost the public $11 billion a year, the agency said. Reducing the rate of growth in costs was a central goal of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul championed by the administration and congressional Democrats.
“Most researchers would say it’s due to this magic combination of less sex and more contraception,” said Bill Albert, the chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “It’s a combination of both.”
Birth rates fell among all age groups, and racial and ethnic groups. The CDC credited “strong pregnancy prevention messages” with the declines, as well as an increase in contraception. It’s also more common for teenagers to use two kinds of prevention — a condom in addition to birth control pills, for example — when they have sex, the report said.
“Childbearing by teenagers continues to be a matter of public concern,” the CDC said in its report. There are “elevated health risks for teen mothers and their infants.”
The rates dropped by at least 8 percent in 47 states and the District of Columbia, while not changing significantly in Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia, the CDC said. Teen childbearing was least common in the Northeast and upper Midwest, and more common in the South and Southwest.
If the decline from 1991 hadn’t occurred there would have been an additional 3.4 million children born to teenagers over the time period, the CDC said.
“Teen pregnancy is not in the interests of the mother, the child, or society at large,” Albert said.
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