Teen pregnancy rate up for 1st time in more than 10 years

Experts say physicians can help stop increases by educating adolescent patients and their parents about pregnancy prevention.

By — Posted Feb. 19, 2010

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The nation's pregnancy rate for teens ages 15 to 19 increased in 2006, after more than a decade-long decline, according to a January report by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that conducts research on reproductive health.

The report found that after falling 41% between 1990 and 2005, the pregnancy rate among this age group climbed 3% to 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2006. The teen abortion rate also increased for the first time in more than a decade, inching up 1% from 2005 to 2006.

"It's a serious concern. Whether this is going to be a blip or a trend, we still don't know," said Janet Realini, MD, MPH, president of Healthy Futures, a San Antonio, Texas, nonprofit that works to prevent teen and unwanted pregnancies in the city. "It means we have to redouble our efforts and use what works."

Physicians, Dr. Realini said, can play an important role by educating adolescent patients and their parents about preventing pregnancy and helping them access contraception. She recommended that physicians advocate in their communities for programs such as medically accurate comprehensive sex education in schools that teach children about abstinence and safe sex.

"That's a big job, and family physicians have a lot of other big jobs to do, but it's a very important part of adolescent care," Dr. Realini said.

In 2006, about 742,990 women ages 15 to 19 became pregnant in the United States, according to the Guttmacher report. That figure was up from 712,610 pregnant teens in 2005.

The report also highlights racial disparities. While the gap has closed between pregnancy rates for black and Hispanic teenagers (126.3 and 126.6 pregnancies per 1,000, respectively), the rate for white teens was nearly three times lower at 44 pregnancies per 1,000.

"Clearly, we have some work to do in eliminating these disparities," said Lawrence Finer, PhD, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute.

He said research indicates that the decline in the teen pregnancy rate from 116.0 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 1990 to 69.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2005 was due largely to more contraceptive use among teens. The rate increase in 2006, Finer said, occurred about the same time the federal government shifted its resources from comprehensive sex education programs to abstinence-only programs.

Comprehensive programs are the most effective because they cover abstinence and contraception, he added.

The American Medical Association adopted a report at its Annual Meeting in June 2009 indicating that sex education providing information about abstinence, condom use and other contraceptive methods is the most effective way to reduce teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story