Alabama teen pregnancy rate climbs for second year

MONTGOMERY, AL - The Alabama Department of Public Health is reporting a second year of rising birth and pregnancy rates among teenage girls, a tend that is reversing a nearly decade-long downward trend.

The Department's Center for Health Statistics reports an estimated 12,398 pregnancies to females aged 10-19 in 2007. That's a rate of 39.7%, which is virtually unchanged from 2006's 39.6%. The rate from 1996 to 2005 declined from 57.1% to 37.5%.

"We need to be aware that teen pregnancy is interrelated to health problems we're seeing with infant mortality," said Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer. "Also, we are concerned that risk behaviors seem to be increasing among our teenagers."

The 8,776 births to teens represented 13.7 percent of total births in the state. In 2005 Alabama experienced its lowest percent of births to teenagers, 13.1 percent of all live births. Teen births increased by 767 between 2005 and 2006 and by an additional 106 between 2006 and 2007.

The infant mortality rates for teenage mothers in 2007 compared with adult mothers in Alabama made a statistically significant difference, 13.8 for teens versus 9.4 for adult mothers.

Jamie Keith, director of the Alabama Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said, "Teen pregnancy and childbearing have significant economic and community costs."

Teen mothers are less likely to obtain adequate prenatal care and to complete high school or attend college. Children of teenage mothers are at greater risk for preterm birth, low birthweight, poverty and welfare dependence.