Black Teens & Pregnancy: Are Today’s Facts Better Or Worse?

Two teen girls smiling, with one girl wrapping her arm around the other girlAbout one million teenagers become pregnant each year in the United States, accounting for 13% of all U.S. births. While teen pregnancy rates have declined, black teens are still two to three times more likely than white teens to become pregnant. Yes, progress has been made, but there needs to be a continued focus on the overall reproductive and mental health needs of today’s young black women.

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• Twenty-three percent of 14 year olds and 30% of all 15 year olds have had sexual intercourse.

• Early childbearing tends to reduce the mother’s opportunity to attain a high level of education and employment.

• Teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, hurting the overall quality of a young mother’s life.

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• Adolescent pregnancies account for approximately 80% of unplanned pregnancies. Nearly 45% of teen pregnancies end in abortion.

• Approximately 9% of African American teenagers gave birth in 1996 – the lowest number since the government began keeping this statistic.

• The percentage of sexually active teens using condoms has increased. Teenagers who have sex are more likely to use contraceptives than in the past.

• Babies born to young mothers are more likely to be low birth weight, to have childhood health problems and to be hospitalized than are those born to older mothers.

• Over 1/3 of pregnant teens receive inadequate prenatal care.

• Morbidity and mortality rates are higher for babies born to young mothers.

• Nearly 25% of adolescent mothers have a second child within 24 months of their first child.

• Teenagers with disabilities (developmental, learning, physical) are at an increased risk for early pregnancy.

• Two-thirds of teen mothers have a history of sexual abuse.

• One-quarter of young women report that their first sexual experience was unwanted.

• Three-quarters of all unintended teen pregnancies occur to adolescents using no birth control.

• Research indicates that those individuals who have received sex education are more likely to have their first sexual experience at a later age and use birth control.

• School failure often precedes early pregnancy and childbearing.

What Can Be Done To Help Teens Today?

According to the CDC, teen birth rates reflect the differences in interrelated social and economic factors, such as education, income, the community, and the perceived ideas and attitudes about sex and pregnancy within peer groups. One of the most successful measures today to reduce risky sexual behaviors continues to be approaching teens in the community in a real and honest way, and using positive development strategies designed to improve their behavior and attitudes.

Such as:

1. Increase community awareness of black teen pregnancy disparities.

2. Talk to community, local, state and federal leaders about making teen pregnancy a discussion priority.

3. Identify healthy and constructive activities for  teens to be involved in after school.

4. Have real and honest conversations with teens about the facts about sex and pregnancy.

5. Consider finding successful members of the community who can be mentors to teens.

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