Teen pregnancy in Minnesota at 'historic lows'

MINNEAPOLIS -- Teen pregnancy and birth rates are at "historic lows" in Minnesota, a University of Minnesota agency reported on Wednesday. But youth who are not seeing dropping rates are LGBT, from rural areas and/or are from populations of color...

MINNEAPOLIS -- Teen pregnancy and birth rates are at “historic lows” in Minnesota, a University of Minnesota agency reported on Wednesday.

But youth who are not seeing dropping rates are LGBT, from rural areas and/or are from populations of color, said the report from the U of M’s Healthy Youth Development*Prevention Research Center.

Using the most recent data available from the Minnesota Department of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources, the report found a statewide pregnancy rate of 20.4 per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 2014. The birth rate was 15.5.

That represented a 66 percent decline in teen pregnancies since the early 1990s and a 58 percent drop in births to teenage moms, according to the report.

The news isn’t all good, said Jill Farris, who directs the agency and was lead author of the report. The rate of sexually transmitted infections among teens continues to rise or persist, she said.


“We have a lot of work to do in terms of a lot of the other issues,” she said.

The report noted that the 10 counties with the highest teen birth rates were all from outside the Twin Cities metro area. The highest rate was in Watonwan County, in south central Minnesota, with 58.2 per 1,000 adolescent females.

The higher rates tend to occur in nonmetro counties with relatively diverse populations, Farris said. Although the metro counties have diverse populations, they also have more resources directed toward youth, she added. In more rural counties, young people may have to travel a long distance to find facilities that are youth-friendly, confidential, affordable and open during hours when they can get to them.

The adolescent birth rate in Minnesota is much higher among American Indians and blacks (40.9 and 34.2, respectively) than among whites (11.0), the report said. Disparities exist nationally as well, but aren’t as stark, according to the data.

The Minnesota rates reflect a national decline in teen birth rates, to a record low of 24 in 2014. But the report’s authors note that still is the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy and birth among developed nations - a teen birth rate six times higher than Denmark, Japan and the Netherlands and eight times higher than Switzerland.

The decline in birth rates could be partially explained by better birth control methods and better use of birth control compared with the 1990s, Farris said. Also, she said, data from the Minnesota Student Survey collected by the health department every third year since 1992 show an increasing number of teens are postponing sex.

Although she cautioned that it’s pure speculation, Farris suggested a couple of possible reasons for that:

-The adolescents of the ’90s are parents of teenagers themselves now. “They saw the impact of becoming parents early and want the young people in their lives to make a better path for themselves,” she said. The kids actually might be listening.


-“It’s interesting that the decline in teen birth and teen pregnancy has happened at the same time as the rise of social media and all the information young people can get,” Farris said. “There’s a lot of bad information out there, but there’s a lot of good information out there, too.”

In the LGBT community, the report notes that bisexual females in Minnesota are five times more likely to have been pregnant than straight females; and questioning males - who are uncertain about their sexual identity - and gay males are four times more likely than straight males to report getting someone pregnant.

That suggests that at least some teens with differing sexual orientations are being left out of the conversation, Farris said.

“We can do a much better job as educators in using language and terminology that speaks to everybody … that’s inclusive,” she said.

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