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Teen birth rate drops

June 10, 2000|By JOSH POLTILOVE

Washington County's adolescent birth rate remains the fifth highest in Maryland despite a significant one-year decline, according to the Governor's Counsel on Adolescent Pregnancy.

The birth rate for every 1,000 people aged 15 to 19 dropped from 59.5 in 1997 to 52.3 in 1998. Still, only Baltimore City, Dorchester, Wicomico and Worcester counties average more births for people of those ages.

"It was way up and now it's trending back down," said Eva Olah, an obstetrician at the Women's Health Center at Robinwood in Hagerstown. "We don't really know why it's gone down so much in the last couple of years."

The rate statewide declined for the seventh consecutive year, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend announced May 31.

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Birth rates among 15- to 19-year-olds dropped 20 percent in the last seven years, the first time since the 1970s.

Maryland's teen birth rate is 19 percent lower than the national rate, 51.1 births for every 1,000 teens.

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The national decline in teen birth rates is attributed to several factors, including decreased sexual activity, an increase in the age teens first have sex and the effective use of contraception, according to a study by Alan Guttmacher Institute.

"The most basic reason the rate is dropping is that teenagers are using birth control more often," said Patti Flowers-Coulson, director of the governor's counsel on adolescent pregnancy. "They're using birth control more because of the fear of AIDS and because of the impact of AIDS awareness."

Adolescent mothers are more likely to drop out of high school, experience unemployment or, if employed, earn lower wages than women who begin childbearing after age 20, the release said.

Children born to teen mothers face increased risks of low birth weight, developmental problems and poverty.

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