Teen birth rate reaches another record low

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The birth rate for teens in America has reached historic lows every year since 2009. New government data show an eight percent drop last year alone. There were 22 births for every 1,000 teen girls. That's still above many developed countries, but the U.S. rate is two-thirds lower than it was in 1991.

Stephanie Alba, a high school senior, volunteers at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center. She intends to go to medical school. Alba said she and many of her friends view having babies as a barrier to higher education and success, so they've chosen abstinence.

"We talk about it because we feel that actually pressures us sort of in a way, which is a little ironic, to be abstinent," she said.

Researchers say declines in the proportion of teens who've ever had sex is one factor in the teen birth rate again reaching a record low. They also point to an increase in pregnancy prevention programs as well as use of effective contraception.

"I'm seeing a lot more teenage girls coming in wanting to know about their options. They're already coming in knowing exactly what they want," said Dr. Kelsey Ryan, a family physician at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center.

Dr. Ryan said doctors are encouraging teens who are sexually active to try long-acting contraceptives such as implanted rods or IUDs.

"Any time we use them, we like to because they're more reliable than the Pill which is forgotten and not quite as effective as other forms," she added.

The new government report showed declines in teen births across race and ethnic groups. But Hispanic teens still have a much higher birth rate -- more than double that of whites.

"There's such a great sense of family and a young girl might feel very supported by her family if she decided to keep a baby," said Dr. Ryan.

Alba, who's Hispanic, said she's gotten a clear message from her parents.

"They've taught me that I should take things at a time," she said.

So she intends to have children later.

The teen abortion rate has also dropped, so abortion is not considered a factor in the declining birth rate.