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YORK, July 3, 2004
in this country have declined
since 1991. While this is good news,
birth rates in the U.S.
high, exceeding those in most
countries. High teen birth rates are an important
because teen mothers and their babies face
risks to their .
About 12 percent of all U.S. births in 2000 were to teens (ages 15 to 19)
1 million teenagers become
each year, and about 475,000
The teenage birth rate is declining. Between 1991 and 2000, the rate
by 22 percent (from 62.1 per 1,000 women to 48.5). Still, in 2000 (the most recent
year for which
about 5 teenage girls in 100 had a baby.
About 17 percent of teen mothers to have a second baby within three years after the birth of their first
Teen mothers are more
than mothers over age 20 to give birth prematurely (
to 37 completed weeks of ),
14.1 percent vs. 11.4 percent in 1999.2 Babies
too soon face an
risk of newborn health problems and
Mother's Health Affects Her Baby
Teens too often have poor
habits, neglect to take their vitamins, and may smoke, drink alcohol and take
the risk that their babies will be born with health problems. Studies also show
that teens are less likely than older women to gain an adequate
(25 to 35
is recommended for women of normal weight).
weight gain increases the risk of having a low-birthweight baby.
During the -to
increased among pregnant teens, while more women over 20 quit.2 In 2000, 17.8
percent of pregnant teens smoked, compared to 12.2 of all pregnant women. Smoking
a woman's risk of having a low-birthweight baby, and also increases the risk of
Pregnant teens are least likely of all maternal age groups to get early and regular
In 2000, 7.2 percent of mothers ages 15 to 19 years received late or no prenatal
care (compared to 3.9 percent for all ages).
A teenage mother is at greater risk than women over age 20 for pregnancy complications
anemia and high blood pressure. These risks are even greater for teens who are
under 15 years old.
Three million teens are affected by sexually transmitted diseases annually, out
of a total of 12 million cases reported. These include syphilis (which can cause
maternal death, and death of the infant) and HIV (the virus which causes AIDS)
which may be fatal to the mother and infant.
Risks to the Baby
baby born to a teenage mother is more at risk of certain serious problems than
a baby born to an older mother.
In 2000, 9.5 percent of mothers
15 to 19 years had a
baby (under 5.5 pounds), compared to 7.6 percent for mothers of all ages. The
risk is higher for the younger mothers: 10.5 percent of mothers between 15 and
17 years of age had a low-birthweight baby in 2000, compared to 9.2 percent of
women aged 18 to 19.
Low-birthweight babies may have organs that are not
developed. This can
problems such as respiratory
in the brain, vision
and serious intestinal problems.
Low-birthweight babies are more than 20 times as likely to
in their first year of life than normal-weight babies.
Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy
often is difficult for a teenage mother and her child.
Teen mothers are more likely to of high school than girls who
A recent study showed that only about 64 percent of teen mothers graduated from
high school or
a general equivalency diploma (GED) within two years after they would have graduated,
compared to 94 percent of teen women who did not give birth.
With her education cut short, a teenage mother may
making it hard for her to find and
a job. A teenage mother may become financially dependent on her family or on .
Teen mothers are more likely to live in
than women who delay childbearing, and nearly 75 percent of all
teen mothers go on welfare within 5 years of the birth of their first child.
Teens may not have good parenting skills, or have the social support systems to
with the stress of
• A child born to an unmarried teenage high school dropout is 10 times as
likely as other children to be living in poverty at ages 8 to 12.
March of Dimes
mission of the March of Dimes is to
the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.
programs of ,
community services, education and advocacy, the March of Dimes continues its successful
Because of the risks involved in teen pregnancy to both mother
and child, the March of Dimes strongly
teenage girls to delay childbearing. The March of Dimes also recommends that anyone
who could become pregnant eat a healthy diet, and take a multivitamin containing
folic acid every day for their own health and to reduce the risk of having a baby
with birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, should they become pregnant.
who already are pregnant can improve their chances of having a healthy baby by:
Getting early and regular prenatal care from a health care
Eating a nutritious and balanced diet.
• Stopping smoking (and avoiding ). Smoking increases the risk of low birthweight, premature birth, stillbirth
and pregnancy complications.
• Stopping drinking alcohol and/or using illicit drugs. Alcohol and drug
use limits fetal
and can cause birth defects.
all prescription and
drugs (including herbal preparations),
recommended by a health care provider who is aware of the pregnancy.