How Common Is Teen Pregnancy and How Can We Prevent It?

A Look at Teen Pregnancy Statistics and Ways to Prevent It

Teenage girl with pregnancy test
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While teen pregnancy rates have been decreasing in recent years, it is still common enough that parents of teenagers need to be aware of the possibility and be proactive in its prevention.

How Common Is Teen Pregnancy?

According to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • In 2017, a total of 194,377 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years, for a birth rate of 18.8 per 1,000 women in this age group. This was a record low for the United States, down 7% from 2016.
  • Nationwide teen birth rate has dropped 64% between 1991 and 2015, which has resulted in $4.4 billion in public savings just for 2015.
  • Only about 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90 percent of women who had not given birth during adolescence.
  • The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and drop out of high school, have more health problems, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.

Though these teen pregnancy statistics show improvements in teen pregnancy prevention in recent years, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is still substantially higher than in other western industrialized nations.

Why You Should Care About Teen Pregnancy

If you are not the parent of a teen or are not yourself a teen, you may wonder how the issue of teen pregnancy could possibly affect you, here are a few ways:

  • Teen pregnancies cost taxpayers 11 billion each year.
  • More than two-thirds of all teenagers who have a baby will not graduate from high school.
  • Billions of dollars are spent taking care of teenage mothers and their children, and they are more likely to be in the poverty bracket.
  • Only 1.5 percent of teen mothers finish college by the age of 30.
  • Children of teenage mothers have lower birth weights, are more likely to perform poorly in school, and are at greater risk of abuse and neglect.​
  • Sons of teen mothers are 13 percent more likely to end up in prison.
  • Daughters of teen mothers are 22 percent more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
  • Child welfare costs $2.3 billion each year.

What Is the Most Important Thing Parents Can Do To Prevent Teen Pregnancy?

The most important thing parents can do to prevent teen pregnancy is to be involved in their teen's life. The more you are involved in your teen's life, the more you will be able to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to tough issues such as sexuality and teen pregnancy.

Communication is key. Being involved also means being willing to answer your child's questions with openness and honesty—and without judgment. If you show a reluctance to share important knowledge with your teen, they'll stop sharing their life with you and will find the information they need elsewhere. Some of these alternative sources of information may include their peers, unreliable websites, or even porn. In many cases, the information they find may not be accurate.

This is why sex education in the home is so essential.  Gaps in information can lead to the sorts of outcomes you may fear the most for your child, including unplanned pregnancy.

How Do I Talk To My Teen About Sex?

So how do you have The Talk? Here's a secret: there's no such thing. Or at least there's no one "Talk." Rather, at-home sexuality education should be an ongoing conversation that starts at birth, when infants and toddlers first start learning the appropriate names for their body parts. It only continues from there, with the information becoming more in-depth as your child grows older.

It's understandable if the thought of this makes you nervous or uncomfortable. After all, won't too much information only make your teen more apt to try the things he or she isn't ready for?

Surprisingly, the answer to this is no. Research shows that receiving this information from parents before they become sexually active helps teens protect themselves from bad decisions, increases self-esteem, and even helps to protect them from sexual predators.

Make the effort to be a part of your teen's life. Be the person they turn to when they need information or advice. This way, they'll be better prepared for anything life throws at them.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - Office on Women's Health. Decrease in teen pregnancy. Updated January 30, 2019.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Teen Pregnancy. Reviewed March 1, 2019.

  3. Sedgh G, Finer LB, Bankole A, Eilers MA, Singh S. Adolescent pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates across countries: levels and recent trends. J Adolesc Health. 2015;56(2):223-30. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.09.007

  4. National Conference of State Legislatures. Postcard: Teen Pregnancy Affects Graduation Rates. June 17, 2013.

  5. Sullentrop K. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Costs and Consequences of Teen Childbearing. August 17, 2010.

  6. Breuner CC. Mattson G. Sexuality Education for Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2016;138(2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1348

  7. Flores D, Barroso J. 21st Century Parent-Child Sex Communication in the United States: A Process Review. J Sex Res. 2017;54(4-5):532-548. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1267693

Additional Reading
  • U.S. Department of Justice. Adolescent Motherhood: Implications for the Juvenile Justice System.