Perinatal Indicator: Teen Births in LA County


Births to girls and women ages 10-19.

Why Does This Matter?

Teenagers are still maturing, both physically and emotionally. Giving birth interrupts this growth and leads to lifelong consequences for the teenaged mother, her child, and for society. One in five teen births is to a teen who already has a baby.

Because of their physical immaturity, teenagers are more likely than older women to experience premature and/or prolonged labor, anemia, poor nutrition, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and even death. Challenges facing pregnant and parenting adolescents include lack of education, fewer job opportunities, poverty, isolation, and an unstable family life lacking in social support systems.

Their babies are at increased risk of premature birth, low birthweight, infant death, developmental delays, early-childhood accidents, abuse, neglect, and of being placed in foster care. As they age, these children are more likely to have problems adapting to school, to score lower on math and reading tests, and to repeat a grade. Once they reach adolescence, they have a greater chance of ending up in prison, are more likely to drop out of school, become parents themselves, and to be unemployed.

In LA County, teens having babies cost taxpayers nearly $270 million every year in public health care, child welfare, incarceration, and lost tax revenue due to decreased earnings and spending. Each girl under the age of 18 who has a baby costs the public sector an average of $4,080 per year, and each child born to one of these mothers, $1,430 per year.

Disparities: In LA County, nearly 15,000 (9.8%) live births every year are to women 19 and under. Thirty-five percent of teen mothers are under 18.
There are notable ethnic disparities. The birthrate among 15- to 17-year-old Latinas is nearly 12 times higher than the rate among Asians of the same age, and about 7 times higher than among whites. The birthrate among 15- to 17-year-old African American teens is 6.5 times higher than among Asian Americans and 3.6 times higher than white teens. While only 13.5% of all live births occur in SPA 6 (South Los Angeles), more than 25% of births to girls under 15 occur there.


Live Births to Teen Mothers in LA County by Trimester When Prenatal Care Began (2007)

  • In Los Angeles County, teen mothers aged 18-19 were more likely than those aged 17 and younger to begin prenatal care early in the pregnancy.
  • Prenatal care did not begin until the third trimester for 12% of teens under 15 years of age, 5.3% aged 15-17 years, and 3.5% aged 18-19 years.
  • Prenatal care began in the first trimester for 58.5% of teens under 15 years of age, 68.8% aged 15-17, and 76.3% aged 18-19 years.

For further explanation of the data related to teen pregnancy in Los Angeles County, please reference the LA Best Babies Network Perinatal Scorecard:

Trimester Prenatal Care Began Mothers < 15 yrs.
Mothers 15-17 yrs. Mothers 18-19 yrs.
% of Total Live Births Number  % of Total Live Births Number  % of Total Live Births Number 
1st Trimester  58.5%  117  68.8 3,502 76.3 7,361
2nd Trimester  32.7%  65  23.5 1,194 17.9 1,727
3rd Trimester  12%  6  5.3 269 3.5 342
No Prenatal Care  0.01%  0  0.8 39 0.5 44
Unknown  0.02%  0  1.7 86 1.8 169
Total Live Births  100%  199 100% 5,090 100% 9,643

Sources: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Programs, Perinatal Health Indicators Los Angeles County Report (2007). California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics, 2007; N < 5 not reported.


Percent of live births to mothers under 15, by trimester when prenatal care began (2007)


Percent of live births to mothers 15-17, by trimester when prenatal care began (2007)


Percent of live births to mothers 15-17, by trimester when prenatal care began (2007)


Teen Pregnancy Resources  »