National Indian Teen Birth Rates

The rate of teen pregnancy in most parts of Indian Country is a challenge to accurately report. This is due to a number of factors. Native American teen girls have a higher tendency to not seek professional medical attention for their pregnancies when compared to their peers. Prenatal appointments are many times not sought within the first few months of pregnancy by Native American teens which could be attributed to the overall lack of access to medical services and the use of medicine men or non-licensed traditional practitioners as opposed to mainstream doctors and Indian Health Services. Take into consideration the 25,000 square mile Navajo Nation – the largest Indian tribe and tribal reservation in North America. The Nation is split into 110 Chapter House communities. These are equivalent to incorporated cities or townships off of Indian Country land. On the Navajo Nation, Indian Health Services operates only 6 hospitals, 7 health centers, and 15 health stations – most of which are not open full time or provide emergency health services. For some teens living in remote areas of the reservation, it would take more than an hour and a half drive to visit one of these provider sites. Taking into consideration that more than 70% of local residents do not have personal transportation, prenatal medical care is limited and inaccessible to many residents. This translates into inaccurate reportings of teen pregnancy rates. Without proper prenatal care, it is thought that many teen pregnancies result in miscarriage or are not documented by health authorities. What we do know about teen pregnancy in Indian Country is discussed in the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy's Science Says Research Brief.