How's This For A Heartbreaking Statistic: One In Five Teen Births Are Repeat Births

Yes, you read that correctly. One in five pregnant teenagers are having more than one kid in their teens. After my blog entry last month about my daughter's pregnant  pre-teen schoolmate, this statistic hit me right in the gut.

This info comes out of a report published this month by the CDC.  The report tells us that more than 365,000 teens aged 15-19 years gave birth in 2010, and almost 67,000 (18.3 percent) of those were repeat births.

The only bright spot in this incredibly depressing report is that teen births are finally on the decline in this country, decreasing more than 6% between 2007 and 2010. And while the report tells us that more teen moms are using birth control - almost 91% used some form of contraception after having had a baby - only 22% of those used contraceptive methods considered to be "most effective". These would be methods such as tubal ligation, vasectomy, hormonal implant or intrauterine device (IUD). Using one of these methods limits the risk of becoming pregnant is less than one pregnancy in 100 users a year. These methods may be impractical (who could talk a sixteen year-old into a vasectomy or a tubal ligation - they've got their whole adult life ahead of them!) and more difficult to get than the less-effective condoms or pills.

The remaining statistics are sobering:

  • Repeat teen births were highest among American Indian/Alaska Natives (21.6 percent), Hispanics (20.9 percent), and non-Hispanic blacks (20.4 percent), and lowest among non-Hispanic whites (14.8 percent).
  •  Repeat teen births ranged from 22 percent in Texas to 10 percent in New Hampshire

It's not a surprise that race, economy and geographic location play into these numbers so greatly, and that is the biggest, saddest fact of all. Babies having babies, and it's happening in greater numbers in areas where children are already born into struggling families.

"Repeat births can negatively impact the mother’s education and job opportunities as well as the health of the next generation," Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC's director, said in a CDC news release. "Teens, parents, health care providers and others need to do much more to reduce unintended pregnancies.”

America, we can do better. 

Every teen mother out there is one more girl staring at a host of closed doors instead of a world of opportunity. Every baby of a teen mother out there is getting the short end of the stick as well. We have too many kids being raised by grandparents, too many young women cashing in a future for twenty minutes that they never believed would derail their life. We have too many young women living in hopeless situations who choose parenthood for status, or the for the unconditional love of a child that they hope will fill the emptiness inside them.

We should all want more for our daughters.

And we should be teaching them to want more for the children they will bear someday.

Above all, we should be teaching them that someday doesn't have to happen when your age begins with the number 1. We should be providing open, honest, age-appropriate conversations at home and at school, and we should be providing resources to support those conversations. 

Accidents and careless choices will still happen. But they don't have to happen as often. And they damn sure don't have to happen again and again.

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