By Taylor Sisk

Nearly one in five babies born to a teenage mom in the U.S. are not the mother’s first baby, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In North Carolina, more than one in four babies born to a teen are not her first.

Photo credit: Frank de Kleine, flickr creative commons
Photo credit: Frank de Kleine, flickr creative commons Credit: Frank de Kleine / flickr creative commons

The report reveals that although teen birth rates in the U.S. have been declining for the last two decades, of 367,000 babies born in 2010 to mothers who are 15 to 19 years old, 18.3 percent were repeat births.

Data from research conducted by the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics in 2011 indicates that 26 percent of births to North Carolina teens in the same age group were not the mother’s first child.

According to the CDC, teen childbearing has potential negative health, economic and social consequences for both mother and child, and repeat teen births pose even greater risks.

The report, which examined National Vital Statistics System and Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data from 2007 to 2010, found that multiple teen births can be dangerous for the child. Seventeen percent of infants who were second teen births were born preterm, compared with 12.6 percent for first births, and 11 percent of second teen births were low birth weight, compared with 9 percent of first births.

For the mom, repeat teen childbearing further constrains her ability to attend school and gain job experience.

Elizabeth Finley , director of strategic communications for the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, said that for a number of years the repeat pregnancy rate in North Carolina hovered around 30 percent, but in the past few years has dropped by about a percentage point a year.

“We’re now down to 26 percent,” Finley said, “so that’s a pretty decent improvement.”

Finley said that a heartening piece of data in the CDC report was that almost one in four teen moms in North Carolina are using the most effective means of birth control available, as compared to fewer than one in 10 who are using no birth control at all.

According to the report, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend counseling young women about birth spacing and contraceptive use during pregnancy.
“Research among teen mothers has shown that prenatal counseling is associated with an increased likelihood of using contraception and of using more effective methods,” the report states.

In North Carolina, the Adolescent Parenting Program is offered in counties that have high teen pregnancy rates, funded primarily with federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars. The program teaches parenting skills and sex education, and, Finley said, also has been successful in helping young mothers continue with their educations.

It’s up to the state legislature to decide how to allocate TANF funds.

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Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...