Pregnant Teens Under 15 Face Unique Health Risks, Study Finds

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Dr. Marcela Smid reveals alarming new statistics about the risks that very young pregnant teenagers undergo. Using 2006-2010 data from the National Survey of Family Growth, Dr. Smid focused first on the 3,384 women who reported getting pregnant before the age of 20. Out of those 3,384 women, 289 had reported becoming pregnant before the age of 15, while the other 3,095 had reported becoming pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19.

Here are the trends that the study highlighted:

  • Pregnant teenagers under 15 were much more likely to have sex with much older partners. In fact, 36 percent of these girls had sex for the first time with a partner that was six years or older, which would qualify as statutory rape
  • These teenagers were also much more likely to avoid using contraception, be it condoms or the birth-control pillonly 25 percent of them had used contraception the first time they had sex, compared to the 56 percent of pregnant teens 15-19
  • The demographic of under-15 pregnant teens was also twice as likely to be black or Latino, and less likely to have grown up with two biological parents
  • Unsurprisingly, 89 percent of the under-15 pregnant teens didn't want to become pregnant, and 75 percent of pregnant teens ages 15-19 felt the same

Young teenagers getting pregnant are not only disproportionately represented by black and Latino girls, but also by girls without a typical nuclear family. It seems teenage pregnancy affects fewer white girls and far more girls of color than 16 and Pregnant or Juno would have us believe.

A different study on pregnant teens has also been released by Dr. Simone Vigod of University of Toronto. The study examined about 380,000-440,000 girls in Ontario aged 15-19 over 10 years. The results showed that mentally ill female teenagers got pregnant at a rate of 45 out of 1,000 — whereas all other girls had a much lower rate of teenage pregnancy at 15 for every 1,000 teenage girls.

While the two studies certainly study different age demographics in a different geographical location, the University of Toronto study reinforces the theory that teenage mothers have incredibly large obstacles to overcome. Now if only all our members of Congress could recognize that.

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