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An empty baby bottle lying on a striped background

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though the pregnancy rate for teens between 15 and 17 seems to be declining, a quarter of all teen births still occur in this age group. The number? About 1,700 births a week.

“We can’t be complacent when we hear about these declines,” said Ileana Arias, principal deputy director of the CDC. “We still need to make more progress in reducing health disparities and the public health burden related to teen pregnancies and births.”

CDC Vital Signs report highlights include:

  • Birth rates were higher among Hispanic, black and American Indian/Alaska Native teens.
  • In 2012, the birth rate per 1,000 teens in that age group was 25.5 for Hispanic teens, 21.9 for black teens, 17 for American Indian/Alaska Native teens, 8.4 for white teens and 4.1 for Asian/Pacific Islander teens.
  • Most female teens aged 15 to 17 (73 percent) have not yet had sex.
  • Most of these girls have spoken with their parents or guardians about sex, but only about four in 10 received information both on birth control and how to say no to sex.

A Lack of Education: About Sex & About The Future

Dr. Rani Gereige, director of medical education at Miami Children’s Hospital, said education and pregnancy are connected, particularly in minority communities.

“Lack of education is the problem,” he said. “This includes education from parents, teachers and health care providers. In addition, there may be cultural reluctance to talk about sex.”

Some of Gereige’s recommendations include:

  • Talk to your children about sex in the preteen years (before sexual activity is even an issue)
  • Empower young girls to take care of their bodies and delay sex
  • At the same time, educate your children about the importance of contraception, in case sexual activity does occur

Ileana Arias also noted that pregnancy and birth can interfere with finishing high school and can lead to sacrificing education, career and income…for both young mothers and young fathers.

“The young teen years are a critical time when a teen, especially a young woman, could jeopardize her future if she cannot complete high school or go to college,” she said.

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