December 23, 1998
TEEN BIRTHS DROP TO 10-YEAR LOW
SPRINGFIELD, IL Illinois teenagers are having fewer babies, continuing the downward trend of the past decade that has seen the percentage of babies born to girls 19 years of age and younger fall to the lowest level since 1988, according to figures released today by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Of the 180,649 births to Illinois women in 1997, 12.5 percent, or 22,646, were to teenaged girls, down from 12.7 percent in 1996 and the lowest since 12.5 percent was recorded 10 years ago.
"We are beginning to see evidence that efforts to encourage teenagers to postpone sexual activity are having a positive impact," said Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director. "Abstinence remains the best choice as most teenagers are not ready for the emotional, psychological and financial responsibilities of parenthood. That message must continue to be conveyed by those who have an influence on teens' lives -- their family, friends, teachers, health care providers and religious advisors."
The most recent study of American teens, released in 1997, found that sexual activity among teenagers dropped for the first time since the government began tracking the information in 1970. Fifty percent of teenage girls had sex in 1995, down from 55 percent in 1990. The rate for teenage boys dropped from 60 percent in 1988 to 55 percent in 1995. Researchers believe that more teens are postponing sexual activity because of better school sex education, a concern about the consequences of having a child and the fear of HIV infection and AIDS.
Among teens who are sexually active, the federal study said teenagers who have sex are more likely to use contraceptives, particularly condoms.
"For those who choose to begin sexual relationships before marriage, it is important for them to be provided with information about contraceptives and encouraged to use contraceptives each and ever time they have sex," Dr. Lumpkin said.
Besides the difficulty teen mothers have juggling life as a parent and attempting to finish high school, Dr. Lumpkin said there are health risks to the mother and baby. He said teenage mothers are less likely than older women to receive timely prenatal care, are more likely to smoke and less likely to gain the recommended weight during pregnancy, and more likely to have a low birthweight baby, which is the leading cause of infant mortality.
In 1997 in Illinois, there were 9,104 babies born to girls 17 years of age and younger, 40 percent of all teen births. Births to 18- and 19-year-olds totaled 13,542. In 1996, there were 9,422 babies born to teens 17 years of age or younger, and 13,909 to 18- and 19-year-olds. Among racial groups, African-American teenagers accounted for 40 percent of all teen births, or 9,152; 98 percent were unmarried. There were 7,989 births to white teenagers, 76 percent of whom were unmarried, and 5,303 to teens of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 72 percent of whom were unmarried.
The number of births to teen mothers and the percentage of the state's total births for the last 10 years are 1988, 23,169 (12.5%); 1989, 24,923 (13.1%); 1990, 25,545 (13.1%); 1991, 25,291 (13.0%); 1992, 24,601 (12.9%); 1993, 24,395 (12.8%); 1994, 24,668 (13.0%); 1995, 24,046 (12.9%); 1996, 23,331 (12.7%); and 1997, 22,646 (12.5%).
of Public Health
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Springfield, Illinois 62761
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