Teen pregnancy: Things to think about
5/9/2022 by Marcie Billings, M.D.
While Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that the rate of teen birth rates in the U.S. have been declining since 1991, this rate is still much higher than other Western industrialized nations. Racial, ethnic and geographic disparities continue to be seen in the U.S. Teens coming from homes with less education and lower incomes, or those who are in foster care, have higher birth rates.
Consequences of teen pregnancy can affect the teen mom and her child. Teen moms drop out of school at a higher rate. Children of teen moms are more likely to have lower achievement in school, higher school dropout rates and an increase in health problems, according to the CDC. These children are also more likely to be incarcerated, have a teen pregnancy themselves and be unemployed as an adult.
Preventing teen pregnancy should be a significant priority.
According to the CDC, prevention efforts of teen pregnancy can include:
- Evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.
- Community efforts addressing disparities that lead to teen pregnancy.
- Access to reproduction health services.
- Support from parents and other trusted adults.
Pediatric health care professionals should take every opportunity to discuss reproductive health needs with their teen patients in a supportive and inclusive manner, making sure all aspects of their medical and social health needs are addressed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when teen pregnancies occur, health care professionals should encourage early prenatal are and provide guidance to strengthen support of the pregnant teen. The focus should be on family and resources, including insurance, transportation, housing and food. It also helps to start discussions on parenting skills and monitor the teen for further needs, including mental health care, safety, substance use and post-pregnancy contraception.
Marcie Billings, M.D., is chair of the Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and a pediatrician with Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson. Her special areas of practice are adolescent medicine and eating disorders.