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Health officials say teen births in state on rise

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Health officials and others involved with keeping teens from becoming mothers are trying to figure out why the number of teen births increased significantly in Alabama last year.

In 2006, there were 8,670 babies born to mothers who were 10-19 years old, compared to 7,903 births in 2005 — an increase of 767.

Dr. Albert Woolbright, who directs the health department’s statistical division, said the increase was disappointing because the numbers had been steadily decreasing since 2000. There was a slight increase of 11 births from 2003 to 2004, when there were 8,259 teen births.

Officials are looking at factors that might be contributing to the rise, including whether more teens are choosing to have sex and whether fewer of them are using contraception.

Jamie Keith, executive director of the Alabama Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said it’s “a mixed bag” since the rate went up in a majority of Alabama’s 67 counties but down in 18 of them.

Statewide trend

“There’s no seemingly regional area that was spiking,” she said Monday. “It appears to be across the state, so it’s just an issue that I think everybody needs to pay attention to.”

“These are very, very fresh numbers,” State Health Officer Don Williamson said. “Total births in Alabama in 2006 went up by almost 3,000 so there was an overall increase in all births, but there was a proportionally greater increase in teen births.”

“We can hope that this is a one-year exception,” he said. “We’re going to need time to really give this a closer look.”

Keith said her campaign takes an abstinence-only approach when speaking at schools, as required by the state, but also teaches youngsters about contraceptive use when speaking at community organizations.

“Any time there’s an increase we need to pay attention — and we need to pay attention even when it goes down,” she said. “We need to consider the types of information we need to be giving our teens. There’s a lot of room at the table.”

Babies born to teens died at a rate of 11.6 per 1,000 births in 2006 compared to an 8.5 mortality rate for adult mothers. Teens are more likely to have babies born at lower weight and have less prenatal care.

Kelly Warren, who directs the Mobile County T.E.E.N. Center, said she’s hopeful since there’s been a trend downward.

“I personally would not say this is something to completely stop what you’re doing and change direction,” she said. “It’s our barometer — we have to follow it and keep our eye on it, but I wouldn’t completely scrap what’s being done because it went in a direction we didn’t intend.”

Teenage pregnancies

A look at the number of babies born to females ages 10-19 through the years in Alabama:

Year

Number of Births

1960

15,608

1970

15,834

1980

13,048

1990

11,552

2000

9,916

2001

8,993

2002

8,589

2003

8,248

2004

8,259

2005

7,903

2006

8,670

Alabama Department
of Public Health

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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