Teen pregnancy rates down in area

June 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Birth rate per 1,000 females ages 15-19

  1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 Berkeley Co. 76.8 70.9 69.9 65.9 70.4 57.5 Jefferson Co. 56.7 54.7 49.3 39.8 39.1 53.3 Morgan Co. 52.5 55.1 55.1 78.7 68.2 76.1 West Virginia 57.5 56.3 54.2 54.0 52.0 51.7 Washington Co. 50.5 58.2 52.4 51.1 54.7 50.0 Frederick Co. 33.1 34.1 31.9 32.4 31.0 37.5 Maryland 53.2 54.1 50.7 48.7 48.4 47.7

Pregnancy rate per 1,000 females ages 15-19

  1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 Franklin Co. N/A 52.6 44.4 44.0 39.5 52.6 Fulton Co. N/A 52.2 65.3 30.9 70.5 42.6 Pennsylvania N/A 69.8 64.7 62.3 58.3 56.3

Teen pregnancy seems to be on the decline in Washington County and most places in the Tri-State area, according to 1995 figures, the most recent statistics available.

But the problem of teen pregnancy is so complex that teen health educators can't explain the trend.

"If it's not increasing, we're probably doing something right," said Kristin Grosh, coordinator of the Washington County Interagency Committee on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Parenting.


In Washington County, the rate of births to teenagers was at a five-year low, following a downward trend in the state of Maryland, according to the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families.

Still, about 200 teenagers in the county give birth each year, and 225 abortions are performed to females between the ages of 15 and 24, Grosh said.

Grosh's committee promotes the cooperative efforts of local agencies to prevent teen pregnancy. The agencies also help pregnant and parenting adolescents, she said.

The agencies are sponsoring more programs that help parents talk to their children so they don't learn about sex from peers or schools.

"People are becoming more comfortable talking about sexuality issues," she said.

Parents need to know that the fathers are an average 4.5 years older than the young mothers.

"I, as a parent, would be concerned if my child dated an older boy," she said.

Another important thing to remember is that teens who have had one baby are at a higher risk for becoming pregnant, Grosh said.

"They think they can't get pregnant or won't use birth control right away," she said.

Unlike some social problems, teen pregnancy is not primarily an urban or rural problem, said Christine Merritt, adolescent health specialist for the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

It has been linked to poverty, and lack of access to opportunities like higher education.

"It's real hard to separate it out from many different problems," Merritt said. "There's not really any simple answers."

Berkeley County, W.Va., saw a sharp decline in the teen birth rate in 1995. The birth rate per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 dropped from 70.4 in 1994 to 57.5 in 1995.

Teen birth rates were up in Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia, but those rates fluctuate more because of smaller populations, Merritt said.

Similarly, teen pregnancy rates have been fluctuating in Fulton County, Pa. The teen pregnancy rate is slightly different than the birth rate because it includes abortions and miscarriages.

After three years of steady declines, teen pregnancy in Franklin County, Pa., went up in 1995, to 53.6 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Statistics.

Ann Spottswood, education coordinator at Family Health Services of Franklin and Fulton counties, could not explain the trend.

"We need to work together. The communities, the schools and families. The families need to take the lead," Spottswood said. "They need to know more than `Just Say No.'"

One of the most effective prevention programs lets middle school students hear about parenting from teen mothers themselves, she said.

Last month, a 16-year-old told Greencastle Middle School eighth-graders that if she could turn back time she would have waited until she was married to have children.

The mother of a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, the young woman attends high school full time and works 30 hours a week at a fast-food restaurant.

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