Newswatch 12 reports: Teen birth rate drops in the United States, still higher than other countries; Sexual education could decrease rate even moreSubmitted: 11/25/2014

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WISCONSIN - Teen birth rates dropped significantly across the country in the past few years.

Despite the decline, the United States still has the highest teen birth rate compared to other developed countries.

There are many reasons the rate is going down, and there could be many explanations to why the U.S. is behind other countries.

Education could decrease the rate even more.

That could prevent more people from having to go through the difficulties of being a teen parent.

Robbin Saule found out she was pregnant when she was in high school.

Her son Lukas is now two and a half years old.

"A lot of my teachers looked down on me a little bit," says Saule.

Like many teen mothers, Lukas' father isn't involved anymore.

"When Lukas was about two months old I came home and all my stuff was in the living room. He said 'you have until the end of the weekend to get out,'" Saule said.

Teen mothers are less likely to graduate high school.

About one third of teen moms don't get a high school degree or GED.

Robbin did graduate high school and is now in college.

But it's difficult to balance work, school, and being a single parent.

"It is definitely hard but every time I look into my son's eyes I know it's worth it," says Saule.

We met Robbin in Marshfield.

She takes part in the Healthy Birth program at Ministry St. Joseph's hospital.

Patty Heller coordinates the program.

It can be difficult for all mothers to adjust to parenting, but it's harder as a teenager.

"They need to be an adolescent before they can be an adult," says Heller.

Teen moms face changes when it comes to school, work, and even their friendships.

"[I] definitely lost friends a lot of them decided not to be friends with me because we couldn't do a lot of the same stuff together anymore," Saule said.

Many teenagers are dealing with the same hardships as Robbin.

The United States has a very high teen birth rate compared to other countries, but it has declined over the past few years.

Comprehensive sex education could be a contributing factor.

Anne Cirilli works at the Oneida County Health Department.

She provides reproductive health education for people who go to the Reproductive Health Clinic in Rhinelander.

"It's not just abstinence only but it's also teaching them good effective birth control methods," says Cirilli.

But there are still a lot of high school students who aren't learning about birth control.

One in four teenagers in the United States attend schools where they're taught abstinence only, but some research shows that abstinence only programs don't prevent children from having sex.

"Some of the research shows that adolescents in the United States of America are not as good at using contraceptives effectively as you see in other countries," said Heller.

Many parents support comprehensive sex education.

About 90% of parents in the United States want their children to learn about STIs, abstinence, and birth control.

Three quarters of parents believe children should be learning about those topics in middle school.

"The school systems are recognizing this as an important issue and they are teaching comprehensive sexual education," says Cirilli.

Milwaukee is a good example of a city that's lowered its teen birth rates in part because of comprehensive sex education.

The city had the second highest teen birth rate of all cities in America in 2005, but it has turned that around.

Milwaukee's teen birth rate dropped 50% percent from 2006 to 2012.

City programs, changes to the sex education curriculum at Milwaukee Public Schools, and a shocking ad campaign contributed to the decline.

Lowering the teen birth rate can help the community.

"Overcoming poverty is a giant thing for the adolescent pregnant and parenting adolescent," Heller said.

There are people who only go to the health department for pregnancy tests, but there are teenagers that go to avoid getting pregnant.

"Most of them are actually planning to avoid an unplanned pregnancy so that's ideal that we can sit down, go through education, talk about the options," Cirilli said.

Story By: Kaitlyn Howe

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