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Teen Birth Rates Down, But Is Every Teen Getting Facts?

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Monday, September 16, 2013   

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - This month the Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov reported that teen birth rates in Missouri and around the nation have dropped to an historic low. In Missouri, the most recent number of teen births is about half of what it was in 1991. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has found that more teens are delaying sex and more of those who do have sex are using contraceptives.

Paula Gianino, president, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, is encouraged by the numbers, but she noted that some parts of the state are not making as much progress as others.

"We see in both rural and urban areas of low socio-economic status high rates of teen pregnancy and teen childbirth," she said.

One way to keep teen pregnancy rates down is for parents to talk to their children about sex, Gianino said, adding that children who have positive communication with their parents are more likely to make responsible and healthy choices.

Teens are inundated with sexual messages in the media and from their friends, but many Missouri teens do not get enough comprehensive scientific information about sexuality and reproduction, she said.

"The majority of teens can graduate in this state without receiving any sexual health education at all. Just simply, schools leave it out, because they believe it's too ' controversial,'" Gianino explained.

Missouri is one of 29 states that does not require sex education, and those schools that do offer it are required by law to stress abstinence.

Many organizations in Missouri and around the nation offer parents information on how to speak to their children about sex. One thing they stress is that it should not be a one-time talk, but rather ongoing, age-appropriate information involving all aspects of sexuality, from how pregnancy occurs to how to treat each other with respect.

Gianino, too, stressed that parents need to take the lead.

"When we can increase communication in the home, teens feel more supported, and they just do better - not only around sexual decision-making, but a whole host of other issues."

Nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen birth rates dropped 6 percent in 2012 to 29 births per thousand. The report found that the teen birth rates varied by ethnicity, with the highest rate for Hispanic and African-American teens and the lowest rate for Asians.

The CDC report is available at www.cdc.gov. Information on sexual topics for parents to give their children is available at http://answer.rutgers.edu/ and at http://advocatesforyouth.org.



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