Teen pregnancy is still a problem but not on the rise.
Viewpoint by Pam Paz
As a young girl, my mother aspired to be a crime scene investigator or prosecutor. However, by 17 she was a wife with three kids and a grandma by 33.
She always said her children have been the greatest blessing of her life, and if she could change things, she wouldn’t.
Both of my sisters were also teen moms.
Of the four women in my immediate family, I am the only one who has no children.
I may not be a mother, but I know what it’s like and know it’s not easy.
Sleep deprivation, noise, poop and projectile vomit are all part of the territory.
I’m thankful (and lucky) I did not get trapped in my family’s cycle of young motherhood, but I know that this is a cycle many young girls don’t escape.
My eldest niece is now 14. She and my sister have open communication about everything, including sex. This was not the case in my house growing up. At first, I thought their openness with each other was really strange, but I realized more parents should be able to have open, two-way conversations with their children on this topic.
To my knowledge, my niece is not yet sexually active, but she is well informed about sex and everything that comes along with it.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an adolescent whose mother was a teen mom is more likely to have a child before the age of 20
Though becoming a teen mother isn’t necessarily the end of the world, the consequences far outweigh the benefits.
Teen mothers are less likely to finish high school.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 40 percent of teen mothers earn a high school diploma, and only 2 percent complete a college degree by the age of 30.
Neither my mom nor my sisters completed high school or went to college.
Additionally, teenage mothers are more likely to rely on public assistance, be poor as adults and have children who have poorer educational, behavioral, and health outcomes over the course of their lives than do kids born to older parents, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
My father hopped from one oil field job to another to make ends meet. He and my mother did not depend on government assistance, but they lived in meager rental and trailer homes.
My sisters, on the other hand, were unmarried and dependent on government assistance to feed their children.
The U.S. still has higher incidences of teen pregnancies than many other developed countries; Health and Human Services indicates teen pregnancy rates have dropped in the last two decades.
In 2013, the national teen pregnancy rate was 26.5 births for every 1,000 teen girls, a significant decline compared to 1991, when the teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 teen girls.
Texas ranks among the highest in teenage pregnancies, but the Texas teen pregnancy rate has decreased by 38 percent since 1998, and the teen birth rate has declined by 48 percent since 1991, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Even with these statistics, it’s hard for me to believe this given my family history and the pregnant teens I see or hear about.
The website of the Centers for Disease Control states that while reasons for the declines are unclear, teens are less sexually active, and those who engage in sex are using contraceptives.
Teen pregnancy is preventable. Abstinence is the best way to avoid teen pregnancy, but let’s get real; teens are going to have sex.
Contraceptives such as condoms and birth-control pills are effective ways to prevent teenage pregnancy.
Even with sex all over the media, parents are still uncomfortable talking to their teens about sex.
The websites for the CDC, Health and Human Services and Planned Parenthood provide valuable information on teen pregnancy and prevention as well as resources for young mothers, which will be useful when starting that conversation with teens.
Visit www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm, http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/trends.html or www.plannedparenthood.org for more information.