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Dr Manny's Notes

'Incredibly Disappointing:' U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rates on the Rise

For the first time in more than 10 years, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate rose in 2006.

This is incredibly disappointing to me. This is a real medical issue.

According to the Associated Press, a report by the Guttmacher Institute has overall teen pregnancy rates up 3 percent in 2006, with a 4 percent rise in the rate of births and a 1 percent rise in the rate of abortions.

Click here to watch Dr. Manny talk about this on "Live Desk."

And, the U.S. has a higher rate of teen pregnancy, birth and abortion when compared to other western industrialized countries.

I deal with teen pregnancy in my medical profession, and you should realize that these pregnancies are high risk, meaning there are high complication rates, both for the teen mother and the unborn child. There are higher rates of preemies, low birth weight, and I often find malnutrition, anemia and birth trauma (among other concerns) in young mothers.

Let's not forget that these premature babies will continue to have a life-long struggle. We have seen studies that some premature babies often have educational difficulties because of developmental delays, behavioral problems and other disorders or chronic diseases such as asthma.

And there are many reasons as to why these rates are increasing.

Economic uncertainty with teens is one of them. These teens are likely not attending college, are not employed or have seen a decrease in employment rates. It's not necessarily their fault, because today's economy is playing a role in these factors. There are budget cuts in schools, so these kids don't have anything to do after school.

Today's teens are highly exposed to social media and Internet. Through this our society has created a cultural that makes having sex OK, and creating an environment where promiscuity is excepted. Also, we have to continue to emphasize that sexually transmitted diseases are still out there, which it seems this teen generation has not gotten that memo.

Teens who are sexually active have to think about of all the risks included in having early intercourse. This teen generation has been bypassing the messages we have worked so hard to communicate in past years about waiting to have sex. They are being inundated with "raw" messages from the media, social sites and the Internet.

If the teen pregnancy rate keeps going up, I predict that we will go back to where we were in the 1970s, when teen pregnancy clinics and high school drop outs were abundant.

Do we really want to do backwards?