In the US, teen pregnancy rates have gone down over the past 2 years, however they still remain very high. In fact, we have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of any developed nation! Over 1000 teens give birth in the US each day, that’s 400,000 new teen moms each year. For teens, a natural part of growing up is developing their first romantic relationships. While many teens wait to have their first sexual encounter, nearly half (47%) of all high school students have had sex according to the Center for Disease Control.
Teen pregnancy can have many implications: teens parents are less likely to pursue higher education (50% of teen moms drop out of high school) which equals lower paying jobs and increased risk of poverty. They may be socially isolated from peer groups or stereotyped at school which can lead to low self-esteem or depression. The good news is that teen pregnancy is preventable. Parents can help prevent teen pregnancy by having regular, open communication with their teens about family values, expectations of behavior, and modeling healthy relationships. Parents can equip teens with resources to help guide them in making the healthiest and safest decisions around sex and their bodies. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has some nice resources to help parents start conversations with their teens around healthy relationships, sex, and birth control.
Remember, it’s not just teen girls involved in teen pregnancy. Parents need to communicate with their teen boys too! Teen boys who become fathers are also less likely to finish high school and more likely to live in poverty.
If a parent is uncomfortable talking about sex and relationships directly, bring up the topic with your teen’s doctor. Health care providers all agree that the only way to prevent pregnancy 100% of the time is to not have sex at all, but we also can address questions regarding puberty and development, birth control options and sexually transmitted infection screening in order to ensure your teen is healthy.
If your teen does become pregnant or gets someone pregnant, there are options. One of the most important things for a teen to hear is that they still have a future and can still pursue their goals in life. If the teen decides to become a parent, they have legal rights to be able to continue to go to school. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) discusses the rights of pregnant teens and how it is illegal to discriminate against them at school. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s not just the students who can isolate a pregnant teen, but adults at school as well.
Finally, teen pregnancy is decreasing, but remains a problem. Though half of high school students have had sex, only 23% used birth control at their last sexual encounter. For more information on how to talk with your teen about abstinence, sex, and/or birth control check out some of our previous blog posts: