Teen Pregnancy Declining But Repeat Pregnancy Still High

PHOTO: Teen pregnancy has declined over the past two decades, but nearly one in five teens who give birth will have another baby before they turn 20.

More than one in five Latina teens who have a baby will have at least one more child before they turn 20.

According to a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while teen pregnancy has declined in the last two decades, nearly 67,000 of the 365,000 teen births in 2010 were repeat teen births.

American Indian and Alaskan Natives, Hispanics and black teens are 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanic white teens to have a repeat teen birth, but there are some encouraging signs. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the decline in teen births among Latinos has actually been greater than the overall rate of decline.

While the CDC and organizations like Planned Parenthood applaud the decrease, they want to make sure that pattern holds, and they say the rates are still relatively high compared to other demographics.

One reason, according to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, is that Hispanic teens are more likely than other demographics to face challenges that make preventing teen pregnancy harder. "Poverty, lack of insurance, and immigration status often block Latinas from accessing contraception," the organization said in a statement.

According to the group, which wants oral contraception like the pill to be available over the counter, Latina teens are the most likely group to skip taking prescription birth control because they can't afford it, and, especially for uninsured teens, they have trouble accessing it.

The CDC says, though, that more than nine in 10 sexually active teen moms already use birth control, but that only about 20 percent use the most effective forms, such as implants or intrauterine devices that don't require teens to remember to take a pill regularly and result in the fewest pregnancies. But implants and IUDs need to be placed by a healthcare provider and they cost more than some other methods, which can deter some teens.

Dr. Wanda Barfield, a pediatrician and director of the Division of Reproductive Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, said home visitation programs, where moms talk to a mentor about everything from contraception to breastfeeding, have proven particularly effective.

"Thinking about culturally appropriate support is really important," Barfield said, adding that offering Spanish-language advice can be helpful.

Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood, which has been a vocal advocate of Obama's Affordable Care Act because it allows women to get contraceptives without a copay, said it's also important to help parents and kids talk to each other about sex. The organization released videos in October aimed at doing just that and will unveil Spanish-language versions in May, which is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. The organization is also currently polling Latino adults about what they think would help reduce teen pregnancy and will have results shortly.

Planned Parenthood has also used as a model ¡Cui´date! -- a federally recognized teen pregnancy prevention effort aimed at Latinos. The program is offered in both Spanish and English and, in part, aims to "highlight cultural values that support safer sex, and reframe cultural values that are perceived as barriers to safer sex."

Kantor emphasized that the trend in teen pregnancy is going in the right direction and said she thinks it's important to invest in programs that work.

"In this time of a lot of financial constraints where people are worrying correctly about putting money into things that don't work," Kantor said, "it's important to say we are making a difference now" and that efforts that prove successful need to continue.

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