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Teen pregnancy rate drops to a record low, CDC reports

The teen pregnancy rate in the United States fell in 2009 to a record low - part of a 37 percent decline over the past 20 years. The report, which covers teen pregnancy rates from 1991 to 2009, found that more than 400,000 teen girls give birth each year in the U.S. About 46 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control. About 14 percent of sexually active teen girls and 10 percent of teen boys report that they do not use any type of birth control, the report says.

The report finds that teens need sex education, the opportunity to talk with their parents about pregnancy prevention, and those who become sexually active need access to affordable, effective birth control. For teens who are sexually active, experts say that two forms of birth control - such as condoms for boys and birth control pills, hormone shots or an IUD for girls - are most effective for preventing pregnancy. "Though we have made progress in reducing teen pregnancy over the past 20 years, still far too many teens are having babies," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC. "Preventing teen pregnancy can protect the health and quality of life of teenagers, their children and their families throughout the United States." Contraceptive use is lowest among Hispanic teens and non-Hispanic blacks, while teen childbirth is highest among those two groups. Rates also are high among poor teens of all races and ethnicities.

Black and Hispanic teen girls are about two to three times more likely to give birth than white teens. Fifty-eight percent of black teen girls say that they've engaged in sexual intercourse, compared to 45 percent of Hispanic teen girls and 45 percent of white teen girls. Seventy-two percent of black teen males report that they've had sex, while 53 percent of Hispanic teen boys say they have and 40 percent of white teen boys report that they've had sex. According to CDC Vital Signs, teen childbearing has a high cost emotionally, physically and financially for the mother, child and their community. About half of teen mothers do not get a high school diploma before the age of 22.

One in three girls born to teen mothers will become a teen mother. Children of teen parents are more likely to have low school achievement, drop out of school and be teen parents themselves. The CDC report says that teen pregnancy and childbirth cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $9 billion each year, approximately $6 billion in lost tax revenue and nearly $3 billion in public expenditures.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made reducing teen and unintended pregnancy a key priority. In support of this effort CDC recommends: Sex education that provides accurate information and is tied to the developmental needs of adolescents.

*Parents and teens communicate more effectively with each other on issues of sex and teen birth.

*Sexually active teens have access to affordable and effective birth control. For information about preventing teen pregnancy, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns and http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/prevention/index.html.

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