In 2016, Knox County had 366 pregnancies in women aged 15-19 years old, for a pregnancy rate of 24.7 per 1,000 women in this age group. Knox County was below the state average, as Tennessee as a whole had a pregnancy rate of 32.5 per 1,000 women in this age group. Nationally, there has been a decline in the number of teenage pregnancies, and although reasons for this decline are not clear, more teens may be delaying or reducing sexual activity, and more of the teens who are sexually active may be using birth control than in previous years. Still, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is substantially higher than in other western industrialized nations.
Teen pregnancy prevention remains one of the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) top priorities and of paramount importance to the health and quality of life for our youth. (You can read more about that here.)
The importance of prevention
Teen pregnancy and childbearing bring substantial social and economic costs through immediate and long-term impacts on teen parents and their children.
- In 2010, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for at least $9.4 billion in costs to U.S. taxpayers for increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers.
- Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.
- The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and drop out of high school, have more health problems, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.
If more children in this country were born to parents who are ready and able to care for them, we would see a significant reduction in a host of social problems afflicting children in the United States and our community.
What you can do
Data shows parents are still the number one influence in their child’s life. Talk to your children often and set the tone early. The easiest time to send a signal of being “askable” is when they are very young. This can mean explaining to a toddler why his/her body is different from their brother or sister. It can also mean helping them understand healthy friendships and eventually healthy relationships. For those parents who have not had an early chat with their now pre-teen children, it’s not too late. Start by discussing an event in the news or TV. Ask your pre-teen’s opinion about it. Share yours. At some point in the conversation say very clearly, “You know we haven’t talked about this kind of stuff much before, but I want to change that”.