Teen Pregnancy Facts, Statistics and Comparisons

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Being a teen mom seems to be getting a lot of publicity these days, unlike many years ago when it was hushed, and never discussed.

There are now regular shows on television such as Teen Mom and Pregnant at 16. I am not sure if they are promoting teen pregnancy, or trying to spread awareness. Either way, it is a reality for many.

United States teen pregnancy rate compared to other countries

By comparison of countries, the U.S. teen birth rate is nearly two times higher than the United Kingdom (26.7 per 1,000), which has the highest teen birth rate in Europe, and nearly ten times
higher than the teen birth rate in Switzerland (4.3 per 1,000) which has the lowest teen birth rate in Europe. In addition, the U.S. teen birth rate is more than three times higher than the teen birth rate in Canada (14.1 per 1,000).

The number of teen pregnancies also greatly varies by state.

California is ranked the highest, with over 96,000 teen pregnancies per year. The state with the least amount of teen pregnancies is Vermont, with 890. I would imagine the general population of the state is a factor, but what else do you think causes more or less teens to get pregnant? Education level? Socioeconomic status? One or more parents absent in the home? Race?

Here’s what we do know:

Nearly half (49%) of all 12th grade students reported being sexually active compared to 21% of 9th grade students.

2 out of 3 teen mothers never finish high school.

Teen moms are at an increased risk of having babies with a low birth weight and resulting health problems,including mental retardation, blindness, deafness, mental illness, cerebral palsy, and infant mortality.

Sex at a young age

In 2009, 6% of high school students reported that they first
had sex before age 13.

Multiple Partners

In 2009, 14% of high school students reported having already had four or more sexual partners.

Cell phones & Internet

Technology is also playing a factor in teen’s sexual behavior. Did you know that 21% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys have sent/posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves.

Alcohol, Drugs and Sex

50% of teens say drinking and drugs are the main reason teens don’t use contraception when they have sex. (source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy)

More than one-third of sexually active teens and young adults age 15 to 24 report that alcohol or drug use has influenced them to do something sexual.

Teens 15 and older who use drugs are more likely to be sexually experienced than teens who do not use drugs—72% of teens who use drugs have had sex, compared to 36% who have never used drugs.

Teens who have used marijuana are 4 times more likely to have gotten pregnant or to have gotten someone else pregnant than teens who have never used marijuana.

Where are they having sex?

Over half (52%) of sexually experienced 16-year-olds reported that their first sexual experience
occurred in a partner’s family home or a friend’s house.

Differences in teen pregnancies and contraception use by race

In 2009, 48% of black students, 35% of Hispanic students, and 32% of non-Hispanic white students reported being sexually active.

The number of sexual partners also differs according to race/ethnicity. Non-Hispanic black students (28%) are more likely than their Hispanic (14%) and non-Hispanic white peers
(11%) to report that they have had four or more sexual partners in 2009.

Non-Hispanic white students were three times (27%) more likely to report using birth control pills before last sex compared to non-Hispanic black students (8%). Eleven percent of Hispanic students reported using birth control pills before last sex.

5 Ways to Help Prevent Teen Pregnancy

1. Parents need to stress the known consequences of teen pregnancies. Most teenagers do not comprehend the responsibilities a parent has and just how much their lives will change, and nearly 50% have NEVER even thought about it first. Teen moms face a multitude of problems including welfare dependency, health problems, absent fathers, educational failure, and more.

2. We need to discuss contraception at an early age! Children are having sex as young as elementary school age. They need to be educated so they can make wise choices about sex, relationships, contraception and their future. They need to know the other reasons for using certain products for contraception including preventing STD’s, not just pregnancy.

3. Encourage your teen to enjoy their teen years by not becoming a parent, and by learning and growing as people, and setting goals for their future.

4. Open communication – The majority of teens say it would be much easier for them to postpone sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents. Sex is NOT a four-letter word!

5. Make sure there is parental supervision at your home and any other home your teen spends time in. Research shows that the likelihood of first sexual experience increases with the number
of hours teens spend unsupervised.

As a single mom of a 20 year old daughter, I know how scary it is raising a teenager and the importance of teaching risks and responsibilities. My daughter was sexually active as a teen, and fortunately, I have not been called Grandma yet!


Data in this fact sheet are from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 2009, US teen pregnancies, births and abortions:National and state trends by race and ethnicity, and Births: Final data for 2008. National Vital Statistics Reports, 59 (1). Other Countries: United Nations Statistical Division. Demographic Yearbook 2008. New York: United Nations, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), Dangerous Liaisons: Substance Abuse and Sex.