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Teenagers having babies

Teen pregnancy rates decreasing

PRINCETON — The number of teen pregnancies appear to be decreasing in Bureau County.

According to the 2014 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps data recently released, Bureau County had an average of 29 teen pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15-19 during the 2012-14 years, compared to an average of 33 teen pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in the 2010 year data information. The data for this measure came from the National Center for Health Statistics.

As part of President Barack Obama's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI), the Center For Disease Control is partnering with the federal Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health to reduce teenage pregnancy and address disparities in teen pregnancy and birth rates. The month of May has been designated National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

Locally, Princeton High School teacher Emily Happ is one area teacher who talks with students most every day about sex and teen pregnancy through her Child Development and Parenting classes. In both classes, she talks with students about sexual education, pregnancy and the consequences and responsibilities that come with unsafe sex and pregnancy.

Looking at possible reasons for the decline in teen birth rates, Happ said the numbers may be lower because schools are doing more in the area of health/sex education. In years past, students would have a freshman health class, and that was all the information they received. Now they have more options, she said.

Some topics covered in her classes include financial readiness to having a child, social readiness and emotional readiness, as well as pregnancy concerns to both the mother and child, Happ said.

"My classes are an open, trusted climate where we can openly discuss abstinence and birth control and contraception options," Happ said. "They are more aware and educated on the success and failure rates of such contraceptives and myths and misconceptions."

She and her students also discuss how to communicate with their significant others, before engaging in sexual intercourse, on their stance on sex and having kids, Happ said. As a group, they talk about life goals and how having a child could deter them from achieving their goals.

In addition to the more open discussions in schools, many teens are involved in local youth groups and have set standards for themselves which they are following, Happ said.

As another deterrant, teens may also be more aware of the problems that come with teen pregnancy through watching certain television shows, like "Teen Mom," Happ said.

"I think students understand the hardships those people (on the television show) go through and the reality of their choices," Happ said. "I don't think 'Teen Mom' glamorizes teen pregnancy much at all."

Parents should watch these shows with their kids and have frequent and open conversations with them about sex and the choices they are facing, Happ added.

After learning about the local teen birth rate decreasing, Happ said she took the opportunity to discuss the new statistics with her students. The students thought education in school was the biggest factor for the decline. They also thought seeing the reality of teen pregnancy on television shows and seeing their own parents and acquaintances struggle financially were also factors, she said.

"My students all seem to want to further their education, to live life to the fullest without regrets, to be able to afford nice things and achieve their goals. They now know that having a child now will not allow them to do this," Happ said.

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