Study shows drop in teen pregnancy rates throughout statePublished 10:28pm Friday, February 15, 2013
According to the Alabama Department of Health, the percent of births to teenage mothers in Alabama has decreased by 32 percent in the past 10 years, and by 58 percent since its peak in 1973. The significant drop in teen pregnancy is one the department is calling one of the major public health success stories in the last 20 years.
In 2011, Alabama’s teenage birth rate fell to a historic low rate of 20.9 per 1,000 females ages 10 to 19 while the teen pregnancy rate is 29.6 — totaling 6,697 births to teen mothers in 2011, according to the Center for Health Statistics of the Alabama Department of Public Health.
The rate for Dallas County however lands above the state’s average, Albert Woolbright, director of the division of statistical analysis said, but noted that as a county, there was still a dramatic decrease in teen pregnancies as well.
In 2011, there were 127 teen pregnancies, 92 births, 15 abortions and 20 fetal losses, Woolbright said, adding that a fetal loss is counted as a fetus that dies before a child is born.
Dallas County’s teen pregnancy rate in 2011, which is the most recent data the health department has collected, was 40.2 per 1,000 girls. In 2000, Dallas County recorded 270 teen pregnancies, with a rate of 69.2, Woolbright said. In that year there were 201 births, 26 abortions and 43 fetal deaths.
“So you can see there’s been a tremendous decline,” he said.
Woolbright said the health department isn’t sure what it is that’s causing the decline, but said he believed it to be an effect of technology developments and maybe even the economy.
“We don’t know exactly the reasons but we think that it has something to do with technology and the fact that teens may not be interacting with each other that much — they’re more so on the iPhones, cell phones, their iPads and so forth,” he said, adding that there are also so many different outlets and easy access to information on preventing teen pregnancies available to today’s teenage population.
This drop in the teen pregnancy rate and teen birth rate, no matter the cause, is celebrated by many organizations and individuals involved in efforts to address the issue.
“There is not one approach that works for all young people, but a multi-pronged approach may be the answer,” Ava Rozelle, director of the Health Department’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Branch said in a release. “We credit this significant and positive decline to the teenagers themselves and the many initiatives and programs statewide that have had a positive impact on the teen, the family and the community.”
“We celebrate this important achievement and believe that when young people are provided opportunities to build their knowledge and skills about ways to avoid sexual risk-taking behavior they are less likely to engage in those behaviors,” Jamie Keith, executive director of the Alabama Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy said. “I encourage Alabama communities to invest in community and school-based programs that ensure young people have access to medically accurate and age-appropriate sexual health education programs. With this investment we will continue to see declines in the number of unintended pregnancies to Alabama teens.”
Woolbright said with teen pregnancies, there is always a lot of follow up with those mothers. On those follow-ups with teen mothers, the department has found that repeat teen births have seen a major decline, he said.
“We’ve really decreased the number of second, third, fourth and fifth repeat teen births,” he said. “We have a few now that have more than one baby while they’re teenagers. But teens used to have four or five children before they got out of their teens about 20 years ago.”
Of all 67 counties in Alabama, Dallas County is still among the top 10 in teen pregnancy rates, and only Bullock, Greene, Henry, Perry, Russell and Tallapoosa Counties recorded a higher teen pregnancy rate than Dallas County in 2011.
“Overall, teen births in Alabama have seen tremendous decline,” Woolbright said. “And that’s one of the major public health success stories in the last 20 years.”