Teen Pregnancy Declines, Remains An Issue

Today’s teenagers are faced with important decisions, such as where to apply for their first job, what car they’ll drive and where they’ll go to college. For some teens, however, decisions are more likely to involve what brand of diapers to use and what kind of formula to purchase.

At an alarming rate, teenagers are engaging in sexual behavior that leads to unplanned pregnancies.

Catawba County Community Outreach Manager Amy McCauley is aware of the problem concerning teen pregnancy and suggests that before sexual activity occurs, teenagers should seek guidance from a parent or trusted adult.

“Sexual activity is not something to take lightly at any age,” McCauley said. “Anyone considering sexual activity must be fully aware of its consequences, including pregnancy and STDs.”

Unfortunately, many teenagers make the decision to become sexually active without first collecting knowledge described by McCauley.

According to reports, more than 18,000 girls in North Carolina became pregnant in 2009.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that by the time teen mothers turn 22 years old, only 50 percent will have a high school diploma.

A representative of Catawba County Public Health suggests that teenagers are better educated today than they were in years past, but many students think that teen pregnancy could never affect them directly.

According to statistics provided by Council on Adolescents Director Lisa Eaton, Catawba County experienced a decrease in teen pregnancies from 2008, where 315 teenagers became pregnant. In 2009, Catawba County had 297 reported pregnancies.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy documented that in 2008, teen childbearing cost North Carolina taxpayers $392 million.

While decreasing the pregnancy rate by 18 might seem like a small number in comparison to the 297 that occurred in 2009, the total savings to Catawba County taxpayers amounted to an estimated $363,744.

From the last reported Catawba County statistics, McCauley said 107 patients under the age of 19 were served in the Catawba County Public Health Prenatal Clinic during the 2010-2011 school year. This number does not reflect the number of teen mothers who were cared for by private practices.

Pregnancy Care Center Executive Director Renee Bentley said that accidental pregnancies are 100 percent preventable for those who educate themselves before making decisions.

“We encourage abstinence, and we do abstinence instructions,” Bentley said. “We go out to youth groups and any agency that invites us to (talk with young people), and we talk about abstinence.”