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Teen Birth Rates Highest in Mississippi Pt.1

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 14 May 2012 04:12pm | comments
For every one thousandth Mississippi teen girl 55 will give birth.

Mississippi has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation.  For every one thousandth  Mississippi teen girl 55 will give birth.  Starting today in a two part series, we will examine the effects and consequences of babies having babies.   MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports. 

AT the Women’s Infants and Children’s center in Jackson  20 year old  Shayntel Robinson is  picking up groceries for her one year old daughter Krysta.

"I got whole milk, bread,  juice cheese just everyday stuff that I use at the house just for me and her."

WIC is a government program that provides low income mothers nutritious foods for  themselves and their baby. It's a benefit that shayntel considers to be a mixed blessing.

"I mean like it's not bad to be on WIC but I feel like I need help to take care of my baby and that's not a very good feeling you know."

While programs like WIC are important,  many believe the overall cost of teen childbearing is a burden on the average taxpayer. In Mississippi teen moms cost taxpayers 150 million dollars a year in lost tax revenue,  medical bills and child welfare payments.

"A lot of them are not really trying to get pregnant but they are young. They think they're invincible, they feel as if this will not happen to me and they end up pregnant."  

Ethel Chapman is a counselor with the University Medical Center's Inter Pregnancy Care program. she mentors girls as young as 12 years old about the consequences of being sexually active.. Many of the girls come from environments of mental and physical abuse.  Some have already given birth to pre-mature or low birth weight babies.  Chapman says a large part of her job is to help those young mothers avoid additional pregnancies.

"I'll have to call and see why are you not here for your birth control? Why did you miss your shot? And they'll say oh I forgot and I was so busy. So I'll ask the question are you trying to get pregnant? And usually they say no. So I just let them know if you are sexually active and you're not on birth control then you are trying to get pregnant."

While the number of teen births have fallen significantly the results are still shocking for Mississippi. Last year the state reported more than 6 thousand babies born to teen mothers between the ages of 10 and 19 .   Although the majority of those babies were born to black and Latino teens---about 36 hundred, another 25 hundred were born to white teens like 17 year old Ashton Jenkins of Brandon.

"I don't recall having any like sex education class or anything in school but I mean I knew how it happened.  And I was just one of those girls that didn't think it would happen to me."

Ashton says since giving birth she never has time to think about going out to a movie or partying with her friends because everything about her life is now is centered around her baby. 

"Waking up for feedings, changing diapers. I give him his last bottle at around 10 or 11 o'clock at night and then every three hours he wakes up for a bottle and a diaper change. But it's just constantly something."

Life has not been easy for Ashton as a teen mom and while she loves her son, she does have some regrets. 

"I mean I wouldn't give him back for anything. But if I could go back in time and re-do it I would definitely  prefer to wait until I was married,  settle down, had my career in line."  

While teen births are on the decline in  Mississippi. Experts say it still remains a public health crisis.  Between 1991 and 2008,  nearly 147 thousand teens gave birth in Mississippi giving the state the distinction of having the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Lawayne Childrey. MPB News.









For every one thousandth Mississippi teen girl 55 will give birth.



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