More than 18 percent of all babies born to teenagers in the U.S. are baby No. 2 or 3, federal researchers reported on Tuesday.
It’s bad news not only because it means young mothers aren’t getting the message about birth control, but also because babies born to teenagers, especially unmarried teenagers, are more likely to be underweight and to have other health problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
“Although teen birth rates have been declining for the last two decades, in 2010, more than 367,000 teens aged 15–19 years gave birth,” the CDC said in its report.
“Teen pregnancy and childbearing can carry high health, emotional, social, and financial costs for both teen mothers and their children,” the CDC adds in a statement.
“Teen mothers want to do their best for their own health and that of their child, but some can become overwhelmed by life as a parent. Having more than one child as a teen can limit the teen mother’s ability to finish her education or get a job. Infants born from a repeat teen birth are often born too small or too soon, which can lead to more health problems for the baby.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg created some controversy last month with a plain-spoken anti-teen-pregnancy ad campaign that used images of crying babies to illustrate the problems faced by children of teenaged mothers.
The CDC’s Lorrie Gavin and colleagues analyzed data from two major national surveys on vital statstics and pregnancy risk called the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).
“Based on 2010 NVSS data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, of more than 367,000 births to teens aged 15–19 years, 18.3 percent were repeat births,” they reported.
While 85 percent of mothers who’d had babies before were having a a second child, more than 12 percent of teens had a third and 1.7 percent were for baby number four, five or six.
But there was a slight decline in repeat births, from 19.5 percent of all births in 2007 to 18.3 percent in 2010.
The researchers also looked at whether these young moms were trying not to get pregnant again.
“Of teen mothers who were sexually active, 91.2 percent reported using postpartum contraception after the most recent birth,” they wrote.
But just 22 percent used the most effective methods -- a birth control implant or an intrauterine device (IUD). About half used moderately effective methods such as the birth control pill, a patch, injection ring or diaphragm, which about 15 percent used “less” effective methods, such as a condom or sponge and 8.8 percent used no method.
Health care professionals and educators need to do a better job of telling these very young women about their options and helping them use them more effectively, Garvin’s team said.
“Teen childbearing has potential negative health, economic, and social consequences for mothers and their children and each year teen childbearing costs the United States approximately $11 billion,” the researchers wrote.
“For example, 17 percent of infants who were second teen births were born preterm in 2010, compared with 12.6 percent for first births; 11 percent of second teen births were low birth weight, compared with 9 percent of first births,” they pointed out.
Leslie Kantor of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America pointed out that states such as Texas and Mississippi have some of the highest teen birth rates and some of the lowest rate of health insruance coverage.
“When young mothers postpone a second birth, they have greater educational and job opportunities. The best way to prevent teen pregnancy across the board is by investing in effective sex education, encouragingteens to talk to their parents, and ensuring access to birth control," Kantor said in a statement.
"Overall, this data clearly speaks to the importance of the Affordable Care Act – which provides funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs and gives women coverage without co-pay for the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods," she added.