Teen pregnancy is closely linked to a host of problems for both the parents and the child. Virginia is addressing the full spectrum of social issues that contribute to teen pregnancy.
Why is This Important?
Teen pregnancy is a critical public health issue that affects the health, educational, social, and economic future of the mother and child. Teen pregnancy is also a significant factor in numerous other important social issues: Welfare dependency, out-of-wedlock births, responsible fatherhood, and workforce development are all of particular concern.
Adolescents are less likely to seek out prenatal care because they are afraid, embarrassed, or unaware of the resources available to them. This lack of prenatal care, coupled with the mother's usually immature physical development, result in higher rates of low birth-weight babies than in other age groups. As the offspring of adolescent mothers grow, they are more apt than other children to have health and cognitive problems and to be the victims of neglect or abuse.
How is Virginia Doing?
Over the past decade, the rate for teen births has generally declined in Virginia and across the nation. The birth rate for Virginia teens was 36.1 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 years old in 2003, but by 2013 this rate had dropped to 20.1 births, giving Virginia the 12th lowest incidence of teen births among the 50 states. Relative to its peers, Virginia had a lower rate than North Carolina (28.4) and Tennessee (34.7), but a slightly higher rate than Maryland (19.4). Massachusetts led the nation in 2013 with only 12.1 teen births per 1,000 females.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the latest available data shows that Virginia's teen pregnancy rate improved in line with national trends; at 48 pregnancies per 1,000 female teens in 2010, Virginia bested its peer states and ranked 22nd lowest in the country. The national average in 2010 was 57 pregnancies per 1,000 female teens. North Carolina's rate was 59, Tennessee's rate was 62, and Maryland's rate was 57. The leading state was again New Hampshire, with a teen pregnancy rate of just 28.
Within Virginia, teen pregnancy has generally been decreasing, with every region having a lower rate in 2013 than it did the previous year -- and markedly lower rates in nearly all regions when compared to a decade ago.
According to data from the Virginia Department of Health, the Southwest (44.7) region had the highest teen pregnancy rates, while the Northern (18.0) region had the lowest. Overall, there were 7,335 reported teen pregnancies in Virginia in 2013 -- or an average of 27.8 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19.
What Influences Teen Pregnancy?
Several factors influence teen pregnancy rates. Young women may be at higher risk for teen pregnancy if they:
- Use alcohol and/or other drugs, including tobacco products
- Drop out of school
- Lack a support group or have few friends
- Lack involvement in school, family, or community activities
- Perceive little or no opportunity for success
- Live in a community or attend a school where early childbearing is common and viewed as the norm rather than as a cause for concern
- Grow up under impoverished conditions
- Have been victims of sexual abuse or assault
- Have a mother who was aged 19 or younger when she first gave birth
- Begin dating early. Dating at age 12 is associated with a 91 percent chance of being sexually involved before age 19, and dating at age 13 is associated with a 56 percent probability of sexual involvement during adolescence
Adolescents become sexually mature (and fertile) approximately four to five years before they reach emotional maturity. Adolescents today are growing up in a culture in which peers, TV and motion pictures, music, and magazines often transmit either covert or overt messages indicating that unmarried sexual relationships (specifically those involving teenagers) are common, accepted, and at times expected behaviors.
What is the State's Role?
Virginia works to deliver access to and availability of:
- Family-planning services
- Children's access to primary care providers
- Mental health and substance abuse services
- Adolescent well-care visits
- Pediatric mental health services
- Chemical dependency services
- Check-ups after delivery
Virginia's efforts are based on the core idea that preventing teen pregnancy should be approached not only as a reproductive health issue, but one that incorporates all of the social ramifications involved. If more children in Virginia were born to parents who are ready and able to care for them, we would see a significant reduction in a host of social problems, from school failure and crime to child abuse and neglect.
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data and Definitions
State-level Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Reports, www.cdc.gov/nchs/births.htm
Guttmacher Institute, U.S. Teenage Pregnancies,
Births and Abortions:
National and State Trends and Trends
Virginia Pregnancy Rate: Virginia Department
of Health (VDH), Center for Health Statistics,
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.