Teen Pregnancy Overview

Teen pregnancy rates, teen sex education, and consequences of teen pregnancy are all issues that are discussed in this teen pregnancy overview. Read more to learn how you can help a teen that is at risk of teenage pregnancy.

Though teen pregnancy rates have been declining in the United States, the number of pregnant teens is still high, which has a debilitating cost for America and its teens.

Teen Pregnancy Rates

According to teen pregnancy statistics, teen pregnancy rates have been declining in the United States since they reached a peak in 1990. This decline is occurring among younger and older teenagers, and among all racial and ethnic groups. Experts believe this is due to a combination of two factors:

  • More teens are choosing abstinence
  • Of those sexually active teens, more are using effective methods of birth control

The rate of teen pregnancy, however, is still higher in the United States than in other developed or industrialized nations such as Canada and most of Western Europe. Compared to teens living in those nations, teens in the U.S.:

  • Are more likely to get pregnant
  • Are less likely to be encouraged by their family to wait until they are older to get pregnant
  • Are more likely to get pregnant outside of a stable relationship
  • Are more likely to be living in poverty
  • Have less equal access to education, especially college or vocational school, and therefore have less equal access to job opportunities
  • Are less likely to have a good education about sex
  • Are less likely to have access to or know how to get access to birth control

Some states in the U.S. have significantly different rates of teen pregnancy. In 2000, Nevada had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and also one of the highest abortion rates, though nationwide fewer teens are choosing to have abortions. Most states in the South have higher teen birth rates and most states in New England have lower teen birth rates than the national average. For the most part these differences seem to reflect the sex education that teens in these states receive.

Teens and Sex Education

Teens’ sex education should focus on:

  • The potential negative impacts of teens’ sexual activity, including STDs and the consequences for teenagers of teen pregnancy
  • The fact that abstinence is the only guaranteed way to avoid STDs and pregnancy
  • Information about contraceptives, including how to use them correctly and consistently, potential drawbacks and limitations of the different types, and where to get them

Education for pregnancy prevention should focus on teen boys as well as girls, and should help teens understand why they should avoid teen pregnancy.

Consequences of Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy can have serious negative consequences for a teen girl and her baby. Compared to teens who wait, teens who get pregnant are more likely to:

  • Drop out of high school
  • Live in poverty
  • Be a single parent
  • Have long-term health problems
  • Have a premature baby or a baby with health problems

Teens who have risk factors for teen pregnancy such as living in poverty, dating someone much older than themselves, believing that they have few opportunities in life, or early dating or sexual involvement can be helped through education that starts at a young age. Parents play an especially important role in teen pregnancy prevention by talking to teens about their values and the importance of waiting to have sex or having protected sex, encouraging their teens to set long-term goals like getting an education, and giving their teens a sense of self worth.

Teens who are or think they may be pregnant should see a doctor as soon as possible. Most communities have free or low cost health care for pregnant women and teens. Pregnant teenagers should tell a parent about their situation, if possible, or another adult who can help them make the decisions that will lead to a better future for themselves and their baby.


Guttmacher Institute, “U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity,” Updated September 2006 [available online]

Guttmacher Institute, The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy February 2002, Volume 5, Number 1, “Teen Pregnancy: Trends and Lessons Learned” [available online]

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

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