By Margarita Nahapetyan
The number of teenage girls in the United States who are having babies, has reached a record level in 2007, a government statistics show, and C-section delivery rates continue to hit new highs.
The statistics are based on a review of nearly 99 per cent of birth certificates reported by 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S territories, by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the report, the birth rate for teenagers between 15 and 19 years of age, rose by 1.4 per cent in 2007 compared to 2006, continuing more than a 3 per cent rise in 2006. The birth rate for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 remained unchanged. Although the experts will have to wait at least another year or two in order to determine whether this is becoming a clear pattern, the current increase in 2 consecutive years can be signaling that the long-term national campaign that fights to reduce teen pregnancies, might have stalled or maybe even reversed.
The reasons for such an increase in teen births are still unclear. Some experts attribute it to the lack of education about contraception, others speculate that it could be due to a growing confidence after years of progress. A CDC survey, which is going to be released later this year, may provide a clearer picture about sexual activity, use of contraceptive means and sexual behavior for individuals in all age groups, said Stephanie J. Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics, and one of the authors of the new report. Government and nonprofit organizations offer their programs and do their best in order to provide more education on contraception, advise young people not to rush with sexual relationships and promote abstinence to reduce the rate of teen births.
The increase might also reflect a broader trend that cuts across all age groups, since birth rates have also dramatically raised for women in their 20s, 30s and 40s and among older unmarried women. The statistics showed that the number of unmarried women who gave birth last year, has also reached record numbers in 2007, up to 5 per cent from 3 per cent in 2006. Nearly 1.71 million babies were born in 2007 to single mothers of all ages. Almost 60 per cent of all births to women between the ages 20 and 24 were to unmarried mothers, and 32 per of women aged between 25 and 29 have also given birth without being married, according to the report.
The numbers also showed that deliveries through Cesarean section have continued to rise, presently accounting for about a third of all births, an increase of 2 per cent compared to the previous year. The rate of C-section births in the United States increased by 50 per cent over the last 10 years, which, health authorities say, is significantly higher than is medically necessary. It was found that nearly 34 per cent of births to black women happened by C-section, more than in any other racial group. But geographically, the percentages were highest in Puerto Rico, reaching 49 per cent, and in New Jersey, going up to 38 per cent.
The report has also found that the pre-term birth rate, for infants delivered before the 37th week of pregnancy, has slightly gone down, and the percentage of babies born with low weight declined for the first time since 1980s. Scientists cannot explain yet why these numbers are going down and plan to continue with their investigation. In addition to this, U.S. abortion rates have dropped to their lowest levels in decades. Explanations on this matter are contradictory - with some experts attributing the fall to better use of contraceptives, while others speculating that the rise in births might be evidence of improper use of contraceptives.