Bristol Palin's Cameo Role in Teen Pregnancy Trend

A new CDC report shows the end of a 15-year decline.

ByABC News
January 6, 2009, 5:25 PM

Jan. 7, 2009— -- Although 18-year-old Bristol Palin has made headlines in recent months for her pregnancy and the birth of her son, Tripp, she has a lot of company -- in her state and in the rest of the nation.

According to the newest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen births increased by 3 percent nationally in 2006, reversing a 15-year decline of more than a third. And Palin's home state of Alaska -- one of 26 states to see a rise -- led the way, with a 19 percent increase in the teenage birthrate from the previous year.

"It's concerning because there was so much effort made to encourage teenagers to avoid pregnancy starting in the early 1990s," said Stephanie Ventura, an author of the study and director for natality statistics and the National Center for Health Statistics.

The numbers showed a 3 percent increase in births among women of all ages -- an increase in every age group -- as well as the first decline in the average age of mothers giving birth (from 25.2 to 25) for the first time since the CDC began tracking it.

The reversal of the trend in teen births is what most concerns experts.

"It may be that one of the nation's most extraordinary success stories of the past two decades is coming to a close," said Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "What you have is a serious, profound change in an issue where we had nothing but good news to report for almost two decades."

While Albert did not equate every teenage pregnancy with failure, Albert said the issue is a major concern.

"There are, of course, many great success stories," he said. "But the fact of the matter is that many of them don't fare well. And importantly, their children don't tend to fare well."

Only three states -- North Dakota, Rhode Island and New York -- and the District of Columbia saw significant declines in their teen birth rates. Alaska, Mississippi, Montana, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, Louisiana and Oklahoma each saw double-digit increases.