The number of teens giving birth in the United States has increased for the second year in a row, after a decline for 14 consecutive years. According to a reported recently released by the Centers for Disease Control, the birth rate increased from 41.9 births per 1000 teens in 2006 to 42.5 births in 2007. Not only does becoming pregnant and giving birth as a teen increase the risk of serious medical problems for the newborn, including low birth weight and an increased risk of death, but it also makes it more likely that a mom will have many socioeconomic difficulties, including a greater chance she will end up on welfare, not receive a high school degree, and live below the poverty level (which translates to difficulties for newborns as they get older).
Obviously, teens who become pregnant did not use a condom during intercourse, or at least not correctly. Therefore, these teens are also at risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases, such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and AIDS. Unfortunately, some of these infections, such as HIV, can pass through the placenta, and infect the unborn fetus. Given the fact that the risk of developing HIV and AIDS in adults is increasing in some areas of the United States, it also makes it more likely that an infected female will become pregnant. A report recently published stated that the rate of HIV is greater than 3% in Washington DC, which is considered an epidemic.
Although researchers don’t know why the number of babies born to teens has increased for the second year in a row, they speculate that increases may be due to increased risk taking, more relaxed and changing attitudes, portraying sex as OK or even a positive experience on TV, increased risk taking by teens, changing attitudes, and having teen role models who become pregnant (Miley Cirus, Jamie Lynn Spears, Bristol Palin).
How are we going to improve these statistics? We must ensure that sex, STDs, teen pregnancy and contraception is not only taught at school but also discussed in our own home – over and over. Our teens must not only learn our values, but also how to keep themselves healthy. It is fine to teach abstinence at home, but parents should also teach about condoms as a way to protect their teens. Often, we are the last to know that they have become sexually active. (Regular communication and discussion with our teens may give us the privilege of finding out sooner!)
It is also important to teach our teens how to deal with a certain situation before it happens, such as what to do when someone of the opposite sex makes an advance. If your child hasn’t been taught what to do in situations such as a teen making a physical advance, friends trying to increase poor behavior via peer pressure, watching drinks carefully , and others, she will probably be more likely to freeze up when such a situation arises and allow it to get out of hand. My rule of them it to talk about these tough subjects about 2 years before your teens may be in such a situation. This gives them time to think about it and formulate a plan of how to say “no” or how to stay safe. We need to see a reversal of the teen birth rate – in order to do this, we need the community, schools and parents all to work toward a common goal of educating and protecting our teens.