Hispanic Teens Continue To Face Highest Rates Of Teen Pregnancies
In a study released earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Hispanics had the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the U.S. in 2012.
Per 1,000 Hispanic teens aged 15 to 17 years old, the birth rate was 25.5 percen,t while the total birth rate per 1,000 teens across all ethnicities in the same age group was 14.1 percent, according to the CDC Vital Signs study released Tuesday.
Carla Galindo, behavioral scientist for the CDC, said the birth rate among Hispanic teens has decreased, but they still rank the highest in teen pregnancies based on ethnicity.
"We've seen that the rate has decreased, however, what we have found is that there are still more Hispanic teens that are getting pregnant when compared to the other ethnic groups," Galindo said.
Seventeen percent of Native American and Alaskan Native teens became pregnant and 21.9 percent of black teens aged 15 to 17 became pregnant in 2012. White and Asian teens had the lowest birth rates with 8.4 percent and 4.1 percent respectively, according to the study.
Galindo said there are many factors and not limited to one reason why Hispanic teens are more likely to become pregnant at an early age including cultural and religious beliefs, access to medical services and the lack of financial resources.
Since 1991, the U.S. has seen a 63 percent decrease in birth rates among teens aged 15 to 17. In 1991 the birth rate among that teen age group was 38.6 percent while the birth rate in 2012 dropped to 14.1 percent.
Despite the considerable drop, the birth rates for 15 to 17 years old accounted for roughly a quarter of all teenage pregnancies between the ages of 15 and 19 years old.
"Based on the overall findings is that there has been a nice decline," Galindo said. "We started looking beginning in 1991 through 2012 and that's where we've seen that 63 percent decrease overall in the rate."
The study also stressed the need for an increase in sexual education and awareness in both schools and between parents and their children. Roughly one in four teenagers between 15 to 17 years old did not receive the sex talk with their parents or guardians.
According to the same study but between the years of 2006 and 2010, roughly 60 percent of teenage girls received a formal health education about birth control and how to say no to sex before they turned 18 years old and less than 50 percent of those girls spoke with their parents about the same topic.
Roughly 80 percent of those same teens lacked a formal education about sex before having sexual intercourse for the first time.
Galindo said it's important for parents or guardians to have the sex talk with their children during pre-adolescence while they're beginning to develop. She also said it really depends on the age of the child and parents should gauge their responses based on the child's questions they're asking.
"Overall we want to promote sexual health education," Galindo said. "We want to promote teachers, parents, family members to begin talking with teens at an earlier age so that they know how to react when they're put in a situation to abstain from sex and also how to go about doing that and if they are going to be sexually active, help them understand more about the most effective birth control methods available to them."
Galindo said the CDC has been reaching out to many health departments at schools across the nation to raise awareness about sexual education but ultimately it comes down for the state to decide what to include in the school's sex education curriculum.
According to the study's statistics on birth rates in individual states and regions, the District of Columbia saw the highest amount of teen pregnancies in 2012 followed by New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.
The states with the lowest amount of teen pregnancies were in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont.
Galindo said that girls who get pregnant between the ages of 15 and 17 have a higher propensity of dropping out of high school and not attending college than teens who got pregnant between 18 and 19 years old.
"When a teen does get pregnant and has to take care of themselves for the period that they are pregnant and then once they have their child ... they are more vulnerable and at risk for not finishing their high school education and obtaining their diploma," Galindo said. "Compared to those that have graduated and they have children between 18 and 19, they've at least gone through that stage and had the opportunity to obtain their diploma but it's more challenging for a teen between the ages of 15 and 17 to obtain that.
The study also found that teens that had children while they were between 15 and 17 years old were more likely to have additional children than teens at a later age, Galindo said.
"This is a very important stage in an adolescent's life," Galindo said. "And once they start having children, they are more likely to have additional children, which can be challenging if the teen has to get a job and perhaps that job doesn't provide the income that they need to be able to maintain their family."
Kimberly Inez McGuire, director of Public Affairs for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said that all Latinas face barriers to access health care information, which can lead unintended pregnancies among other health problems.
"We know that Latinas are among the least likely to have health insurance and in many cases they're not receiving comprehensive sex ed.," McGuire said, adding, "and so as a result they're more likely to experience unintended pregnancy, they may have higher rates of cervical cancer and incidents of death and we also know that Latinas experience high rates of some sexually transmitted infection. A lack of access to health care information is impacting our reproductive health."
One of the ways the NLIRH is addressing unintended pregnancy for Latinas of any age is making sure women have access to contraception. McGuire said the contraceptive coverage benefit through the Affordable Care Act was a victory for Latinas in the U.S. and the group has been advocating that the mandate stay included in the law.
According to the institute, the negative stigma of teen pregnancies is insensitive to the teen mothers and conservative groups' damnation of them does little to help.
"Young parents unfortunately face really severe and harmful stigma around simply being young parents," McGuire said. "We know that it is a reality that young families, just like all families need resources, respect and recognition. And shaming young families isn't going to help them and isn't going to help anyone else."
The NLIRH has been supporting policies that help young mothers attend school and obtain an education while still being a parent. McGuire said the institute has advocated for schools to be more accommodating for teenage mothers in terms of scheduling conflicts and taking time off to take care of their child.
She also said that the institute promotes health and wellness for all Latinas and wants teens to have more access to sexual education and health care.
"We hope that every young person has the information and access to health care to make their own decisions and chart their own future," McGuire said.