Teen Pregnancy Facts

Teen Pregnancy Facts takes a look at the trends in teenage pregnancy, the higher risks for medical problems in teenage mothers, and a comparison of teenagers who get pregnant to women who wait until they are older to get pregnant.

Teen pregnancy facts indicate, the rates of teen pregnancy have been declining in the United States, but the number of pregnant teens in the U.S. remains high. Teenage pregnancy poses a serious risk to the health of teen mothers and their babies, and to society as a whole, which has to pay the economic and social costs of teen pregnancy.

The number of teens giving birth has been in decline since the 1990s in every state and in every racial or ethnic group. According to abortion statistics, the number of pregnant teens seeking abortions has declined by almost half, while the number of pregnancies declined by about a quarter. The rates of teen births dropped more in some states and in some racial groups than others. Teen pregnancy rates dropped the most among African-American teens. Still, African American and Hispanic teens have a higher birth rate than other teens in the U.S.

Some other facts about trends in teen pregnancy in the United States:

  • About 750,000 teens become pregnant each year.
  • Almost one-third of teen girls will become pregnant.
  • Among industrial or developed nations, the United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy, teen parenthood, and teen abortions.
  • About half of U.S. teens are sexually active. Of those who are sexually active, more are having sex at a younger age, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
  • More teens are waiting until they are older or until they are married to have sex.
  • More than half of teen pregnancies occur in older teens, age 18 or 19. The number of younger teens having babies is declining more than that of older teens.
  • About a quarter of teen mothers have a second baby within two years of the first.
  • Teens who choose to have teen sex are more likely to use a condom than in the 1980s, and less likely to use less effective methods of birth control and STD protection.
  • Most teens who use birth control pills do not use any other method of protection, and many teens are inconsistent in their use of the pill.

Younger sexually active teens are especially at risk for pregnancy and other negative consequences of sex. Teen girls who first have sex before the age of 13 are more likely to have had sex involuntarily. Even among those for whom their first sexual experience was voluntary, about a quarter did not really want the experience to occur. Teens with partners who are much older than themselves are twice as likely to have unwanted sex, and more likely to have unprotected sex.

A teenager who is having unprotected sex has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year. The use of condoms, hormone-based birth control, and better sex education among teens are credited with the decline in teen pregnancies since 1990, when the number reached a high.

Compared to women who wait until they are older to get pregnant, teens who become pregnant:

  • Are more likely to get pregnant more times during their life
  • Are more likely to be single parents
  • Are less likely to have good health coverage for their babies
  • Are less prepared for being a parent and may not know how to take care of their baby
  • Are less likely to get support from the biological father
  • Are less likely to complete their education - only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school, while 75 percent of all teens graduate. Less than 2 percent complete a college education by age 30.
  • Are more likely to live in poverty - more than 75 percent of teen mothers need welfare within five years of having their baby

Teens who become pregnant have a higher risk for medical problems such as:

  • Toxemia
  • Hypertension
  • Severe anemia
  • Premature delivery
  • Placenta previa

Pregnant teens are more likely than older pregnant women to abuse drugs, alcohol, or tobacco and are less likely to get good medical care or take good care of themselves while pregnant. Also, about half of all new cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur in teens, and these diseases can cause disabilities or death in the infant or the mother.

Babies born to teen mothers are at higher risk of medical problems such as low birth weight due to improper fetus growth and/or early delivery. The younger a mother is, the more chance there is of her baby dying during its first year of life. The babies of teen mothers are more likely to have disabilities due to premature birth. Also, the children of teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, to drop out of high school, and to become teen parents themselves.

Other than the effects on teens and their children, society also pays a price for teen pregnancy. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy an estimated $9 billion of public money was spent on families begun by teenaged parents in 2004 alone.

Though the rate of teen pregnancy has been falling, recent numbers suggest that the percentage of teen pregnancies increased slightly in 2006, and experts are unsure whether this was a fluke or a sign that the teen birth rate is rising again.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, healthfinder.gov, Teen Pregnancies, Abortions Drop from 1990 to 2004

U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, Adolescent Pregnancy [online]

March of Dimes, Professionals and Researchers Quick Reference: Fact Sheets, Teenage Pregnancy, October 2007 [online]

Ventura SJ, Abma JC, Mosher WD, Henshaw SK. Recent trends in teenage pregnancy in the United States, 1990-2002. Health E-stats. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Released December 13, 2006.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, A National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Annual Report 1997-1998, June 1998 [online]

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Teen Pregnancy: So What? October 2006 [online]

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