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April 3, 1996

Pregnancy, Abortion, and Birth Rates Among US Adolescents—1980, 1985, and 1990

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga (Mss Spitz, Koonin, Strauss, and Goodman and Drs Velebil, Wingo, Morris, and Marks); and the Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Md (Ms Wilson). Ms Goodman is now a medical student at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif; Dr Velebil is with the Institute for the Care of Mother and Child, Prague, Czech Republic; Dr Wingo is with the American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga; and Ms Wilson is with the Division of Health Interview Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics.

JAMA. 1996;275(13):989-994. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530370027026

Objective.  —To analyze pregnancy, abortion, and birth rates among US adolescent girls in 1980, 1985, and 1990.

Design.  —Retrospective analysis of trends in data on pregnancies, abortions, and births.

Population.  —US adolescent girls aged 13 to 19 years.

Main Outcome Measures.  —Pregnancy, abortion, and birth rates (with and without adjustment for sexual experience) among teenaged girls aged 15 to 19 years and girls under 15 years.

Results.  —Although pregnancy rates among all teenaged girls 15 to 19 years old remained fairly stable from 1980 to 1985, they increased by 9% during the last half of the decade, totaling 95.9 pregnancies per 1000 teenaged girls 15 to 19 years old by 1990. Because rates of sexual experience increased even faster, pregnancy rates among sexually experienced teens aged 15 to 19 actually declined between 1980 and 1990 by approximately 8%. Abortion rates among these teens remained stable during the 1980s, with 35.8 and 36.0 abortions per 1000 in 1980 and 1990, respectively. As with overall pregnancy rates, abortion rates among these sexually experienced teenaged girls declined during the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1985, birth rates among teenaged girls aged 15 to 19 years declined by 4%, but they increased by 18% during the latter half of the decade, totaling 59.9 births per 1000 in 1990. Among these sexually experienced teenagers, birth rates also declined between 1980 and 1985 and then increased over the next 5 years. In 1990, pregnancies and abortions among girls younger than 15 years accounted for only 3% of all adolescent pregnancies and abortions. However, the number of births among these younger adolescents increased by 15% over the decade. In that age group, trends in pregnancy, abortion, and birth rates over the decade were similar to those for older teens. However, during the late 1980s, the abortion rate declined and the pregnancy rate remained stable, resulting in a 26% increase in the birth rate.

Conclusions.  —Despite efforts to reduce adolescent pregnancy in the United States, pregnancy and birth rates for that group continue to be the highest among developed countries. Considering that 95% of adolescent pregnancies are unintended, increased efforts to prevent these pregnancies are warranted.(JAMA. 1996;275:989-994)