Teen pregnancy is a significant problem in the United States.  Despite the fact that the teen pregnancy birth rate steadily declined from 1991-2005, the United States still has a teen pregnancy rate higher than most other developed countries.  Furthermore, after more than a decade of decline, the teen pregnancy birth rate actually increased for all but the youngest group of adolescents (ages 10-14) between 2005 and 2006. 

Teen pregnancy is closely linked to a number of poor life outcomes that have significant social and economic implications for both the teen mother and her child.  Teenage mothers are more likely to dropout of high school (only one-third receive a high school diploma) and are more likely to be and remain single parents.  Nearly 80 percent of unmarried teen mothers receive welfare.  The children of teenage mothers are more likely to be born preterm, more likely to have lower birth weights, and are at a greater risk for abuse and neglect.  Furthermore, the children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower cognitive attainment and exhibit behavior problems at school.

Regionally, in recent years both Missouri and Illinois have experienced increases in the teen birth rate.  There continues to be large disparities between the teen pregnancy rates from one ZIP code to the next.  This underscores the importance of the need for effective, evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, particularly in the communities where teen birth rates are the highest in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  

Prevention is the most optimal solution to teen pregnancy.  The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnership has been working for over a decade to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders to address this issue in Missouri.  They provide training on evidence-based approaches to teen pregnancy prevention and provide technical assistance to communities that want to organize teen pregnancy prevention efforts in their communities.  The Teen Pregnancy Centeris a unique health center for pregnant teens that works to decrease not only the negative medical outcomes associated with teen pregnancy, but also increase access to parenting and social support services for patients and their families.  

We will need to examine the data over the next few years before we can determine if the recent increase in teen pregnancy rates is a trend or a brief occurrence.  Regardless of those findings, it is clear that teen pregnancy remains a critical issue in our community.  Coordinated efforts must be made to reduce and prevent teen pregnancy, and in cases where such measures were ineffective, to ensure the best possible outcomes for the teen mother and her child.