Last year, public health professionals were disheartened by the news that teenage birth rates were up, reversing a 14-year long trend of decline. While it is still premature to see if a real downward trend is emerging, the statistics signal a sense of alarm in the United States. Nationally, the birthrate among 15-19 year olds rose 1.4 percent from 2006 to 2007. Current data shows that birthrates rose from 41.9 births per 1,000 to 42.5 in the same age group. We blogged about teen birthrates earlier this year here. The United States’ teenage birth rate is far higher than that of any other industrialized nation.
Some experts suggest that the rise in birthrates results from a growing complacency about AIDS and teen pregnancy. Others find fault with sex education programs, in particular with abstinence only sex-education programs. (We previously blogged about comprehensive sex education programs here.)
Another possibility may be that media frenzies around pregnant celebrities, both teen and adult, may be a factor in the rising teen birth rate. When entertainment magazines breathlessly announce celebrities’ pregnancies and female stars are constantly subjected to “baby bump watch,” does that have an impact on teenagers’ ideas about pregnancy? Does it make light of how difficult being a teenage mother actually is, while ignoring the fact that the women and girls featured in the glossies have far more money and resources than the average American woman? These may be worthwhile factors to research, especially if the teen pregnancy rate continues to rise.