Teen Pregnancy Drops to New Historic Lows

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North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate fell 10% last year to a historic low, according to new data provided by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics and released by the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC).

The 2012 teen pregnancy rate was 39.6 per 1,000 15-19 year old girls. In other words, fewer than 4% of 15-19 year old girls in North Carolina experienced a pregnancy last year.

Other highlights from the newly released data include:

  • Reduced pregnancies among girls of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, helping to minimize some historical disparities. Pregnancies to white, black, and Hispanic teens dropped 8%, 11% and 13%, respectively.  
  • Reducing the teen pregnancy rate also reduced all potential outcomes of a teen pregnancy. The teen birth rate dropped by 9% and the teen abortion rate dropped by 13%.
  • 74% of counties saw teen pregnancy decrease in 2012.
  • Less than one-quarter (24.5%) of pregnancies happened to a girl who has been pregnant before, the lowest proportion of repeat pregnancies in state history.
  • North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate is 62% lower than when it peaked in 1990.

Nationwide, researchers have attributed teen pregnancy declines to increased use of birth control, the availability of more effective birth control methods like IUDs and the Implant, and a slight increase in the average age when teens first engage in sexual intercourse.

Concentration in the Older Years

Part of the decline in teen pregnancy has been driven by the shrinking number of pregnancies to minors, which have been cut almost in half in the last decade.

A full 71% of all teen pregnancies in North Carolina happen to 18-19 year old girls.  Twenty-three counties had more than 10% of all 18-19 year olds get pregnant last year.

“Most counties have nearly eliminated pregnancies to minors, which is a tremendous victory,” said APPCNC CEO Kay Phillips. “The best way for us to make additional progress overall is by helping our state’s medical providers connect young adults with the most effective forms of birth control and by helping our young adults know how and where to access the health care they need.”  

Advocates note that the most effective solutions for reducing 18-19 year old pregnancies connect these teens – most of whom are already sexually active – with effective birth control methods, largely through clinic outreach and social marketing to this traditionally hard-to-reach demographic group.

Celebrating Successes

While national research highlights the success of birth control use, the positive trends in younger pregnancies and shrinking racial disparities point in part to the successes of strategically placed proven programs, which tend to focus on younger teens and more at-risk demographic groups.

Gaston Youth Connected, a project run by APPCNC and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced Monday that they have closed the disparity between African American and White teen pregnancy rates. The project, which combines evidence-based prevention programs and clinic interventions, has seen heavy participation and leadership from African Americans in the community.

Likewise, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives (TPPI) have been successful at connecting younger teens in 42 counties with evidence-based and evidence-informed pregnancy prevention programs. For example, El Pueblo of Wake County’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program works with Hispanic teens and their families in an effort to close the disparities gap in teen pregnancy rates.

TPPI also works with pregnant and parenting teens through their Adolescent Parenting Program, which provides pregnant and parenting teens with evidence-based home visiting and peer group education to help them prevent a second pregnancy, graduate high school and gain parenting skills.

“In the past two decades, our teen pregnancy rate has been cut by more than half,” notes Phillips. “We couldn’t have seen that level of success without a combination of things: medical trends, smart public policy, and – without question – really effective, strategic prevention programs.”

Unfortunately, the federal shutdown has put many programs like those run by TPPI on hold, leaving some of the state’s most at-risk youth disconnected from their mentors until the federal government resumes funding and state agencies lift their stop work orders.

 Additional Resources:

Snapshot of North Carolina Data:

Data for Each North Carolina County:

Historical Data:

NC State Center for Health Statistics:

MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Finley, Director of Strategic Communications, (919) 749-7309 (mobile) or (919) 226-1880 (office)


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