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Oklahoma's teen birth rate remains high, decreasing at a lower rate than most states

Teen childbearing in the United States has been declining for years. However, over the past 20 years, Oklahoma has seen its teen birth rate decrease more slowly than most other states.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: August 20, 2014

Oklahoma has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation — and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Only New Mexico had a higher teen birth rate than Oklahoma in 2012, a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

And although Oklahoma’s teen birth rate has decreased over the past 20 years, it has decreased more slowly than rates for every state in the nation except North Dakota and South Dakota.

Public officials say Oklahoma could do a better job of educating youth about prevention and family planning.

“Teen pregnancy prevention is important for everyone,” said Linsey Garlington, teen pregnancy prevention supervisor at Oklahoma City-County Health Department. “Parents, caring adults, congregations, youth service organizations, community organizations and businesses need to be involved and help support education for young people in and out of the school settings.”

Teen childbearing in the United States has been declining for more than half a century, according to the report. Except for a brief but steep increase in teen birth rates from 1986 to 1991 and smaller upturns during 1969-1970, 1979-1980, and 2005-2007, birth rates for U.S. teenagers have fallen since 1957, according to the report.

Babies born to teen mothers are at a higher risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery, and these children are more likely to become teen mothers themselves one day, according to CDC. Also, the vast majority of births to teen mothers — 89 percent in 2013 — are to unmarried teens, “reinforcing the more limited resources and supports available for mothers and their infants,” the CDC report points out.

In Oklahoma, the teen birth rate has fallen from almost 67 births per 1,000 teenagers ages 15 to 19 in 1990 to a rate of 47 births per 1,000 teenagers in this age group in 2012. However, that decrease is among the smallest declines in the rest of the nation.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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