The birth rate among American teenage girls has dropped to a historic low, according to government statistics released Friday.
Births to American teens ages 15 to 19 fell 9 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The birth rate in 2016 -- 20.3 babies per 1,000 females -- marks a decrease of 51 percent from 2007 and 67 percent from 1991.
"That teen births declined 9 percent in one year is amazing," said Dr. Elise Berlan, who runs the Young Women's Contraceptive Services Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, better known as BC4Teens. But the United States still has the highest rate of teen births among industrialized countries, she said.
Overall, the birth rate among all American women of childbearing age, which is defined as 15 to 44, is at a record low, according to the report. About 3.9 million babies were born in 2016, and the general fertility rate was 62 births per 1,000 women, a decrease of 1 percent from 2015.
For context, the agency reports that the highest recorded birth rate in the U.S. was in 1957, at 122.7 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.
A drop in the teen birth rate is something to get excited about, Berlan said, because 80 percent of teenage pregnancies are unintended. Teen mothers also are at higher risk of giving birth prematurely, a risk factor for infant mortality. That's a health crisis that Ohio and Columbus have been working to resolve in recent years.
"The CDC has called (teen pregnancy) a 'winnable battle,'" Berlan said. She advocates for more use of contraceptives, especially long-acting reversible methods such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants.