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U.S. teen pregnancy rate hit record low in 1997

HAYATTSVILLE, Maryland (CNN) -- America's teen-agers were less likely to become pregnant in 1997 than at any time since 1976, when national data first became available, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Still, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any Western industrialized country.

The teen pregnancy rate fell 19 percent from its high in 1991 to a record low of 94.3 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15-19 in 1997, the latest year for which data are available, the report said.

"The fact that fewer teens are becoming pregnant is encouraging news," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, CDC director. "Few teens are ready for the challenges of parenthood. When they delay this responsibility it enables them to gain the education and maturity they need to be good parents and good citizens."

The rate had risen from the mid-1980s and peaked in 1991; the 1997 rate is 10 percent below the 1986 rate, when the upturn began.

Pregnancy rates fell for all classes of teenagers, with the steepest drops occurring among non-Hispanic blacks (down 23 percent) and whites (down 26 percent).

The report noted the decline is accompanied by reduced rates of live births (down 13 percent) and abortions (down 32 percent). Teen birth rates are available through 1999 and show a continued decline -- 20 percent since 1991.

The drop in teen pregnancies was likely driven by increases in condom use, increased use of injectable and implanted contraceptives, and leveling-off of teen sexual activity, the report said.

Among women of all ages in 1997, an estimated 6,192,000 pregnancies in the United States resulted in live births, induced abortions, miscarriages or stillbirths. That's nearly 600,000 fewer than in 1990, when the number of pregnancies peaked.

The pregnancy rate in 1997 was 103.7 pregnancies per 1,000 women age 15-44 years, 10 percent lower than in 1990 and the lowest rate since 1976.

Pregnancy rates have declined for women under 30 and risen for older women. Though the greatest increases in pregnancy rates were among women 35-39 (up 9 percent) and 40-44 (up 21 percent), pregnancy rates remain highest for women in their 20s.

The report, "Trends in Pregnancy Rates in the United States, 1976-1997: An Update," was prepared by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics in Hayattsville.

The 6 million-plus pregnancies in 1997 in the United States resulted in 3.9 million births, 1.3 million induced abortions and almost a million fetal deaths. This means that 63 percent of pregnancies ended in a live birth, 21 percent in abortion and 16 percent with a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Trends in birth, abortion and fetal loss have varied over the past two decades. Between 1990 and 1997 the rates for all three have declined, with live births down 8 percent; induced abortions down 19 percent, and fetal loss down 4 percent.

The pregnancy rate for married women has risen slightly to 113.8, returning to 1994 levels. That rate is 10 percent lower than it was in 1990. The pregnancy rate for unmarried women continues to decline, now 9 percent below the 1990 level.

Pregnancy outcomes varied depending on marital status. Seventy-four percent of pregnancies among married women ended as live births and 7 percent ended in abortions. Among unmarried women, 47 percent ended in live births and 41 percent ended in abortions.

The report said changes in pregnancy rates may be linked to changing attitudes towards premarital sexual activity, better contraception measures, and increased economic opportunities during the 1990s.

• CDC: Teen Pregnancy
• National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP)

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