Local News

Teen pregnancy rate stays steady in N.C.

Posted September 22, 2008 8:44 a.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2008 11:55 a.m. EDT

Baby Medical

— North Carolina's teen pregnancy rate has remained steady for the past five years after a dramatic 13-year decline to the state's lowest-ever rate in 2003.

In 2007, 19,615 girls between ages 15 and 19 got pregnant, a rate of 63 pregnancies per 1,000 girls, according to newly released statistics from the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics. The numbers includes both married and unmarried teens. 

The rate of repeat pregnancies rose 3.2 percent from the previous year and made up 29.4 percent of all teen pregnancies.

"While it's good news that we didn't seen an increase in teen pregnancies in 2007, we are concerned that the rate has leveled off over the past few years," State Health Director Leah Devlin said.

"Too  many of our teens are getting pregnant. North Carolina has one of the higher teen pregnancy rates in the nation."

The 2007 numbers are virtually unchanged from 2006, when North Carolina had the country's ninth-highest teen pregnancy rate. The state's rate has dropped 32 percent since 1992.

The disparity between white and minority teen pregnancy rates has narrowed, and the rate dropped among most minority populations in the past year.

However, the minority teen pregnancy rate was still 1.6 times higher than that of for white teens in 2007, compared with two times higher in 1992.

Hispanic teens had the highest pregnancy rate at 167.4 per 1,000 girls in 2007. That rate has fallen 3.3 percent since 2006 and nearly 7 percent since 2003.

The rate of African-American teen pregnancy rose slightly last year to 87.1 per 1,000. The number of pregnancies among American Indian teens and other minority groups was too low to calculate reliable rates.

Experts said that the wrong message is being sent by the media attention on high-profile teen moms-to-be, such as Jamie Spears and the daughter of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

"These statistics indicate that while high-profile first pregnancies such as Jamie Lynn Spears or Bristol Palin make the evening news, it is teen parents that we ought to be focusing on," said Kay Phillips, executive director of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina.

"Recent high-profile teen pregnancies have put a spotlight on this issue," Devlin said. "We must continue to work to reduce the number of pregnancies that occur among young women before they are ready to handle the responsibilities that come with having a child."

Phillips pointed out special problems associated with teen mothers: Only a third graduate from high school, and even by age 30, they are still earning 58 percent of what non-teen mothers do.

"We need to teach our teens to delay pregnancy, and if they don't, encourage them in finishing their education and delaying a second pregnancy until they're financially ready to support a family," Phillips said.