Teen Pregnancy Prevention
The state of teen pregnancy
- 1 out of 4 girls will get pregnant at least once before the age of 20.
- About every two minutes a baby is born to a teen mother.
- The good news is that teen birth rates are decreasing! In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that teen births were the lowest seen since the end of World War II. Declining trends have continued since that time.
- In 2021, the teen birth rate in Utah was 9.2 per 1,000 females aged 15-19. This is the 10th lowest rate in the country and represents a 74% decrease since a peak in teen births in 2007.
Why it matters
- In 2010, the estimated amount spent on teen childbearing was $9.4 billion in the United States. In Utah alone, this amount was an estimated $71 million.
- Only 38% of teen mothers will graduate from high school.
- 67% of teen mothers will live in poverty.
- Teen mothers are about twice as likely to not receive early prenatal care.
- Children of teen mothers are three times more likely to become teen parents themselves.
How we are addressing the need
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services receives two federal grants to address teen pregnancy:
- Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE): SRAE focuses on supporting teens’ decision to abstain from sexual activity through educational and positive youth development programs for 10-18 year olds.
- Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP): PREP provides education and youth development programs for 14-19 year olds centered on abstinence, contraception, and adult preparation subjects, including:
- Healthy relationships
- Healthy life skills
- Education and career success
- Adolescent development
- Financial literacy
- Parent-child communication
Eight local health departments and community agencies receive funding. These agencies work with schools and other community partners to provide programs to youth in their local areas. See below for the program coverage in your area.
Several groups of youth are at higher risk of teen pregnancy. Utah’s programs make a special effort to reach these groups.
- Youth of Hispanic or American Indian origin: Hispanic teens are over three times more likely to give birth than their white peers; American Indian youth are about two times more likely to give birth compared to white teens.
- Youth in foster care: Foster care youth are two times more likely to become pregnant by age 19 than their peers.
- Youth in the juvenile justice system: Similarly to their foster care peers, youth in the juvenile justice system are more likely to be sexually active and to become pregnant.
- Teen mothers: About 17% of teen mothers in Utah become pregnant a second time within two years of giving birth to their first child.
- Teens in areas with birth rates above the state average: Teen birth rates are about 1/3rd higher in rural areas compared to urban areas.
- LGBTQ+ youth: Lesbian and bisexual teens have two times the risk of unintended pregnancy compared to their heterosexual peers.
How you can help
Research shows that the support of a positive adult role model can make a huge difference for a young person. Here’s what we know about the role of parents on their teen’s decision making:
- Teens ages 12-19 report that parents influence their decisions about sex more than anyone else, including friends.
- 87% of teens say it would be easier for them to wait to have sex and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations with their parents.
- About 75% of teens and adults say that talking about sex, love, and relationships in the media can be a good way to start conversations about these topics.
*Data from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2022
Other trusted adults- aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, coaches, health care providers, church and youth group leaders, and friends’ parents- can also have a big impact on the lives of youth.
10 Things you can do to support the young people in your life
- Educate yourself: The first step you can take is to educate yourself. Become informed about the challenges young people in your community are facing. Learn where to find the most accurate and current information. Know what online and community resources are available to young people. Be prepared to share this information when young people ask for answers or help. For helpful information click here.
- Become an “askable” adult: Regardless of how much you know, youth will not come to you unless they trust that you will take them seriously and give them honest answers to their questions. Anyone can take on the role of an “askable” adult as long as they are willing to be honest, respectful, understanding, supportive, and non-judgemental.
- Be willing to have brave conversations: It is not always easy to have open conversations with young people about serious topics such as, dating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, and sex. However, they need us to step up and have these “brave” conversations with them. Although it can take a lot of courage and vulnerability on our part, it is worth the risk. It can make a world of difference in their life and strengthen our relationships with them.
- Take advantage of teachable moments: Use simple, everyday examples as ways to start conversations about the big, “brave” topics. For example, as you listen to popular music or watch TV or movies with young people, ask them what messages they think the media is sending about relationships or sex. How does this affect them? Are the messages in line with their own values and goals? What do healthy relationships really look like?
- Listen and be willing to learn: Letting youth have a voice can be very empowering and help them to build confidence. Allow them to be the expert in their own life. Empower them with language. For example, use “young person” or “youth” instead of “kid” or “children”. Instead of just talking at them or lecturing, try to understand them and their point of view. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. Work together to learn and find the answers to questions. Refer them to other helpful people or resources in their community.
- Model healthy behaviors: Actions speak louder than words. Young people can usually tell when we don’t really practice what we preach. How can we expect them to make good choices if we don’t show them how? Show them what healthy relationships look like. Teach them how to communicate well, solve problems, manage emotions, and have a healthy body image.
- Provide growing opportunities: Give youth experiences to make decisions and mistakes, explore their personal values, participate in their community, help others, take on leadership responsibilities, learn life skills, and be in charge of their own development.
- Set boundaries: Although it is important for young people to have space to learn and grow, they still want and need ground rules. Set and communicate clear, consistent boundaries and high expectations.
- Create safe spaces: Work to make your home, classroom, locker room, clinic, or office a place where all young people feel safe, included, and accepted. Make it clear that you will not tolerate bullying or name calling of any kind. Use inclusive language. This type of language can send a strong message to all youth that you are an ally and they are safe with you.
- Focus on the positive: Believe in young people. Recognize their strengths. Teach them that they have strengths and help them to identify what these are for them personally.
- Give them opportunities to build on these strengths.
In all of your interactions with youth, remember:
Youth are resources to cultivate, not problems to fix.
We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.