Teen births in the US plunged by 9 percent from 2013 to 2014, hitting a record low, the National Center for Health Statistics reported Wednesday. The one-year drop builds on a long trend: Since 1991, teen births have fallen by 61 percent.
“It’s a true national success story on an issue that many once considered intractable and unsolvable,” said Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Progress in cutting down teen pregnancy “has been both wide and deep — significant declines in all 50 states, and among all racial and ethnic groups,” Alpert said. “If there has been more progress on a challenging social issue, I don’t know what it is.”
In 2014, there were 24.2 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19.
Alpert offered a few reasons for the drop: Lots more teens are using long-lasting forms of birth control, such as IUDs and contraceptive implants. The federal government has invested in sex-ed classes. Peer influence may be discouraging teens from pregnancy.
Even MTV shows might have helped: The channel’s two reality TV shows about teen pregnancy have had a sobering effect, Alpert said. (A study last year backed him up: It found that teens went online to look up and tweet about birth control after watching “16 and Pregnant” and concluded that the show drove a drop in teen pregnancies.)
The report also offered a flurry of other facts on fertility in the US. Among the highlights:
• C-section rates fell slightly to 32.2 percent of all US births in 2014. That’s still way higher than experts recommend.
• After declining for six years, the fertility rate rose slightly in 2014. “You might think of it as the impact of the economy,” said lead author Brady Hamilton, a statistician at NCHS. During the recession, women appeared to be postponing births, he said.
• The birth rate for women aged 40 to 44 edged up 2 percent, continuing a trend that’s lasted three decades. The birth rate for women over 45 was unchanged.
• Twin births inched up slightly, hitting an all-time high, while the rate of triplets and higher multiple births dropped. The rise in births to older mothers might explain part of the shift: Women in their 30s are more likely to have twins, noted co-author Michelle Osterman, also an NCHS statistician. In addition, she said, due to limits on the number of embryos implanted via in vitro fertilization, “births that might have been a triplet birth 10 years ago are now a twin birth.”