Trends over the past decade show that the number of repeat births among teens continue to decline, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health. But public health experts have also found that many young women in their teen years who have had a child still have another baby before they reach 20 years old. So while this historic low is certainly progress toward reducing the number of teen pregnancies in the United States, there is still work to be done to make contraceptive methods — and information about them — more accessible so that more young women are aware of their options and wait longer to start a family.
According to the CDC's findings published on Thursday, from 2004 to 2015, the number of American teens having more than one child declined by 53.8 percent. Regardless of those findings, however, about 17 percent — or 38,324 births — of the babies born to teens moms in 2015 were repeat births, according to the CDC.
Over the years, many teen moms significantly increased their use of the most effective birth control methods. In 2004, only 5.3 percent of postpartum teens used birth control, whereas in 2013, the number jumped to 25.3 percent.
Overall, the data found that one in six teen births was a repeat birth in 2015, but four years ago in 2013, one in three teens who had recently had a child used either a least effective method — such as male condoms, withdrawal, or spermicides — or no method of contraception at all.
"These data suggest that most teen mothers are taking steps to prevent another pregnancy, but one in three is using either a least-effective method or no contraception at all," said lead researcher Deborah Dee, who is also an epidemiologist in CDC's division of reproductive health, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The CDC researchers noted in the report that further reducing the number of repeat births among teens requires ensuring access to a full range of FDA-approved methods of contraception during the postpartum period. According to the CDC, some of the most effective methods include birth control pills, implants, and IUDs.
"To further reduce teen birth, as well as repeat teen births, it is imperative to institute comprehensive, adolescent-friendly services that promote health education and offer accessible, affordable and effective contraception options to teens," Dr. Jane Swedler told U.S. News & World Report of the CDC's findings.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most forms of birth control and some other preventive services are available without co-pays or deductibles — making the most effective birth control methods more accessible than ever before, and this rapid decline certainly reflects that. But with more awareness and conversations, that lingering 17 percent of repeat teen pregnancies in the United States could steadily decrease as well.