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Little Change in Teenage Pregnancy Rate During 80's Found

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Although the percentage of sexually active teenage girls who use condoms grew dramatically during the 1980's, the pregnancy rate for the group remained relatively flat during the decade, according to a report released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The proportion of teenage girls who reported using condoms increased during the 1980's, from 23 percent to 47 percent, according to the C.D.C. Paradoxically, the annual pregnancy rate for teenagers stayed fairly level during the same period, at 110 pregnancies per 1,000 girls.

The figures were reported in the Nov. 16 edition of the C.D.C.'s Monthly Vital Statistics Report.

Campaign's Efficacy Questioned

Experts credit the rise in the percentage of girls using condoms to educational campaigns about the dangers of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

But the finding that so many girls are nevertheless becoming pregnant--indicating they may also be exposing themselves and their babies to the virus that causes AIDS--raises troubling questions, the experts warn.

"We don't know how effective condom use has been when you look at the fact that the pregnancy rate hasn't dropped and more teenagers are using birth control,'' said Susan Tew, the communications director for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a family-planning research organization that contributed data to the C.D.C. study.

Latest in Series

The study is the latest in a series by the C.D.C. that began in the 1960's to chart pregnancy trends among both teenagers and women in their 30's. It is based on reviews of birth certificates and on interviews with 800,000 women during 1988.

According to the study, there were 6.3 million pregnancies in the United States in 1988, a record high.

The increase in the number of pregnancies during the 1980's is due mainly to growth in the number of women of child-bearing age, according to the C.D.C.

Birth rates between 1980 and 1988 rose by 14 percent for women ages 30 to 34 and by 41 percent for women ages 35 to 39.

The teenage-pregnancy rate per 1,000 in 1988 was 197 for African-Americans and 93 for whites, the C.D.C. reports.

Condom use during the 1980's grew from 28 percent to 45 percent among white teenage girls and from 13 percent to 41 percent among Hispanics, the study found. For black girls, however, the rate hovered at around 30 percent throughout the decade.

Differences among races in pregancy and condom-use rates, the study suggests, may be due to differences in economic status, education, and access to health care and health insurance.

Copies of the study, "Trends in Pregnancies and Pregnancy Rates, United States, 1980-88,'' can be obtained by calling the National Center for Health Statistics at (301) 436-7551.

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