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Teen birth rate down 25 percent
Officials encouraged, but say issue remains
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Forsyth County News

Pregnant teenagers face more difficulties in achieving their future plans and their babies are at a higher risk for health problems.

Given the challenging outlook for a teen and her child, local pregnancy resource centers are encouraged that the birth rate has dropped in recent years.

A recent report by the national Centers for Disease Control found that teen birth rates declined by about 25 percent from 2007 to ’11.

The trend is reflected in Forsyth County, which also saw a 25 percent decrease in the same five-year span.

The national rate also fell from 41.5 births per 1,000 teenagers ages 15–19 in 2007 to 31.3 in 2011.

Forsyth’s rate is about half of the national one, but mirrors the decline.

In 2007, the birth rate for 15 to 19 in Forsyth was 21.7, which dropped to 16.3 in 2011.

Alison Ward, nurse manager for the Forsyth County Health Department, said she hopes the statistics reflect continued education efforts and access to resources in the community.

“Certainly, our teen birth rate is good. It’s not perfect,” she said. “We would like to see no teen births.

“Just because we’re lower than surrounding counties doesn’t mean the issue has to be put on the back-burner or ignored. It’s still something that needs to be talked about and encourage wise decision-making.”

Teen moms are less likely to graduate from high school, which can cause economic issues and difficulty in supporting a family, she said.

Also, Ward said babies born to teens are more likely to be at risk for low birth weight, premature birth, neonatal death or other issues.

Teen pregnancy also impacts the social welfare, since those girls or young women are more likely to need public assistance, Ward said.

Pregnancy prevention programs work to discourage those challenging individual and community outcomes.

Whispering Hope is a local pregnancy resource center that also offers assistance for teens.

Executive director Jackie Batson said the teen birth rate decline hopefully reflects the impact that pregnancy resource centers have made.

“I think that pregnancy resource centers — which have not been around forever, it’s only been the last two to three decades — they’re very vital, very important organizations to their communities,” Batson said.

Whispering Hope, a nonprofit, was founded in 1995.

Data from the CDC report show that the teen birth rate has been falling since 1991, with a brief uptick in 2006 and ’07.

Another statistic that’s encouraging to Batson is the decline in the induced termination of pregnancy rate, or abortions.

For the same five-year period from 2007 to ’11, the rate was also cut in half from 9.3 to 4.6, representing the number of pregnancy terminations per 1,000 teens. That’s a 38 percent drop.

According to Batson, the declines in both birth rate and abortions are likely a result of education locally, especially abstinence programs.

“More people are waiting, and those that are not waiting are being more careful,” she said.

The Forsyth County school system offers an abstinence-based sex education program for students in sixth-12thgrades through curricula provider, Choosing the Best, according to its Web site.

Some indirect trends and statistics could also be affecting the teen birth rates for the county specifically, Ward said.

Within Forsyth, the low teen birth rate could be impacted by the higher socioeconomic standing when compared to the state average, she said.

Families with higher incomes are more likely to have access to private health care providers, and the parents are more likely to be involved “and help their children to be goal-oriented.”

“We know that areas with a high socioeconomic burden (low income, lower education levels, high unemployment) their trends tend to be higher in teen birth,” Ward said. “It sort of reflects what the studies say.”

Increased access to health care and pregnancy prevention services can also contribute to the decline in teen birth rates, she said.

At the health department, Ward said local teens do use available family planning services, which include education, counseling on pregnancy prevention and access to contraceptives, as well as prenatal case management for expectant mothers.

Whispering Hope specializes in providing free medical resources, counseling and education for untimely pregnancies.

The center also works with community teens in providing information on abstinence, fetal development and sexually transmitted diseases.