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U.S. Teen Birth Rate Declines Posted: April 16th, 2010

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that for the first time in several years, the teen birth rate is on the decline. According to the CDC study, which examined 99.9% of 2008 U.S. birth records, the number of teenagers giving birth fell by approximately 2 percent from 2007 to 2008.

The decline marks a reversal from the annual increases reported in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, there were 41.5 births per 1,000 teenagers aged 15 to 19, versus 42.5 in 2007 and 41.9 in 2006. Before the increase in 2006, teen birth rates had been steadily declining since 1991 as a result of increased awareness and teen pregnancy prevention programs.

Teen Birth Rate Decline May Be Sign of Progress

Report coauthor Stephanie J. Ventura welcomed the 2008 numbers as a sign that the country is still making progress in preventing teen pregnancy:

"This is good news," Ventura said. "It might come as a surprise because people were concerned the teen birthrate was on a different course."

Sarah S. Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies was also pleased with the results:
"If there had been a third year of increase in the rate, the two-year 'uptick' in teen births would have become a troubling trend," Brown said.

The birth rate for older teens (age 18 to 19) declined even more sharply in 2008, dropping by 4 percent after a 5 percent increase in 2007. Hispanic teens also experienced a significant decline in pregnancies, with the birth rate reaching 77.4 births per 1,000 teens--the lowest rate ever recorded for this demographic. But despite improvement in 2008, experts warn Americans about the continued threat of teen pregnancy.

Downward Trend or Stagnant Rate?

John Santelli, of Columbia University, told the Washington Post, "I think it is hard to make any pattern out of the last three years, other than to say that we are no longer making steady progress. The trend from 1991 to 2005 was steadily downward. We now seem to be stuck."

As Santelli points out, it's too soon to know whether the 2008 rate drop in teen pregnancies suggests a continuing downward trend. Even with the decline, over 875,000 babies were born to teens in 2008, suggesting that teenage pregnancy is still a real problem in the United States.

Health Insurance for Teen Parents

Fortunately, most teenagers are covered by their parents' health insurance plans. Assuming that the plans include maternity coverage, teens can receive the prenatal care they need at an affordable price. Once the baby is born, however, most teenage parents need to supply additional health insurance for the child. Because grandchildren can't be added to health care plans as dependents in most states, families must plan ahead to ensure their newborns are covered.

Many insurance Web sites provide free health insurance quotes that can help expectant parents select the cheapest health insurance option that fits their needs. Teen motherhood is never easy, but the right health insurance plan can promote a safe, healthy pregnancy.

Jessica Hanley