Texas has the highest rate of repeat teen births in the country. According to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more young women in Texas become parents for a second or third time in their teenage years than any other state in the nation. In 2016, more than 19% of births to Texas teens aged 15-19 were not the teen’s first. Additionally, among unmarried young women aged 20-24, more than half of births were a repeat birth.
In Texas, teen parents have medical authority over their children, but they don’t have the ability to make decisions about their own healthcare. That means that most cannot access effective contraception without their parents’ approval, even though they are already parents themselves. Texas is one of only 14 states in the country that requires unmarried teen mothers to secure parental consent for birth control. While federal law allows teens to provide their own consent to contraception if they are being served through Medicaid or in a Title X family planning clinic, many providers and young women are unfamiliar with these laws.
According to the CDC, having more than one child as a teen can limit the teen mother’s ability to finish her education or get a job. Infants born from a repeat teen birth are often born too small or too soon, which can lead to more health problems for the baby.
Health care providers and communities can:
- Help provide medically accurate information to teen mothers about the most effective types of contraception, and make sure they know how to access birth control if desired.
- Provide long-acting, reversible contraception such as an IUD or implant in the immediate postpartum period
- Provide teen parents with support services, such as home visiting programs.
- Provide wraparound services, if needed, so teens can raise their babies in a safe environment.
- Support and empower teens who already are parents, and provide extra services if needed to help them complete their education.