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Teen Pregnancy Rates Edge Higher

National Institutes of Health Report Also Shows Rise in Low-Birth-Weight Deliveries
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WebMD Health News

July 11, 2008 -- A long trend of falling teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. could be at an end, according to a government report released Friday.

The report shows that teen pregnancy rates edged upward from 21 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2005 to 22 per 1,000 in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Though small, it's the first increase in teen pregnancy rates since they began dropping from a peak in 1991.

Researchers say they're not sure why the rates went up. "It's only one year. And it might be, to use a very technical term, a blip in the data," says Edward J. Sondik, PhD, director of the National Center for Health Statistics, a CDC division that compiles national data on children's health and well-being each year.

"We feel strongly that it bears watching," Sondik says of the teen pregnancy rate.

Low Birth Weight on the Rise

The report also shows a rise in low-birth-weight deliveries in the U.S. Babies born below 5 pounds 8 ounces are at higher risk for developmental delays and many health problems.

The rate rose to 8.3% in 2006 from 8.2% the year before, according to the report.

"This means that 320,000 babies were born at a weight that jeopardizes their survival and long-term good health," Sondik says.

"This trend reflects an increase in the number of infants born prematurely, the largest category of low-birth-weight infants," Duane Alexander, MD, head of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, says in a news release.

Sondik says researchers are unsure what is driving the rise in low-birth-weight deliveries. But they suspect it's related to a trend of later childbearing by U.S. couples and a rise in multiple births that are more likely with fertility treatments.

Smoking Decline

The report also showed a drop in smoking among eighth-graders, continuing a trend researchers say is highly encouraging. Three percent of eighth-graders reported smoking in the last 30 days in 2007, down from 4% in 2006.

Smoking among eighth-graders has plummeted from as high as 10% a decade ago.

"They're making, of course the right choice in their early life," Sondik says.

Smoking rates also dropped over the last decade for 10th and 12th grades but did not go down between 2006 and 2007, Sondik says.

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