September 24, 2011: Dr. Hall will be speaking at the Kansas Book Festival in Topeka, KS.
September 27, 2011: Dr. Hall will be delivering the Dr. Marjorie Sirridge Women in Medicine Lecture at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
Follow this link to listen to a podcast of my recent interview about my book on the internet radio show program Connect with Julianna. Or go to the itunes store, search for Connect with Julianna, and search for "Connect with Dr. Sue Hall," podcast from June 24, 2011.
Preventing Teen Pregnancy
know that three in ten American girls get pregnant by age 20? That adds up to 2,000 teen girls getting
pregnant every day. Over the course of a
year, four hundred thousand teenagers, half of whom are 17 years old or less,
give birth. Our teen pregnancy rate is twice
that of any other advanced country, and nearly ten times as high as Japan’s,
despite similar levels of sexual activity.
However, after reaching a peak in 1990, the teen pregnancy rate is now
at a record low, at 39 births among 1,000 teenagers, a positive change that has
been attributed to the more widespread use of condoms. Still, more than ten percent of all U.S.
births are to women less than 20 years old, and one fourth of moms younger than
18 go on to have a second baby within 2 years after the birth of their first
Babies born to
teens are more likely to end up in the NICU than babies born to mothers older
than twenty, because of their high rates of prematurity and low birthweight. Teens are the least likely group of women
giving birth to get early and regular prenatal care, and they’re also smokers more
often than mothers over 25. They are at
higher risk for complications of pregnancy such as pregnancy-associated high
blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) and premature labor. Their infants are less likely to survive to
their first birthdays, compared with women who give birth in their twenties or
In addition, consequences
of teen pregnancy are far-reaching. For
the young mothers, they include being a single parent, living in poverty and
depending on welfare, and failing to continue education beyond high school (only
40% graduate). Children born to teen
moms tend to have educational problems, too.
They are fifty percent more likely to repeat grades in school and to
drop out of high school than kids whose mothers gave birth in their twenties or
beyond. They are more likely to be
victims of child abuse and neglect, to have worse physical health, and to have
a higher a rate of incarceration when they become adults than children born to
mothers who delay childbearing. Costs
to society are substantial: About $4
billion a year is spent providing public benefits to support the health and
welfare of teen parents and their children, and the total increases to $9
billion if costs for foster care, incarceration, and other social services
needed to manage the negative consequences of teen pregnancy are included.
Which teens are
most at risk for becoming pregnant?
Those who are doing poorly in school, who are economically
disadvantaged, and who have single parents or parents who were themselves teens
as first-time mothers.
How are teen
pregnancies best prevented? Teens
themselves say that their parents’ influence is the most important factor in
helping them to avoid pregnancy. Parents
need to talk with their teens honestly about sex, love, relationships and responsibility,
not just once (“the talk”), but repeatedly from a young age, always in an
age-appropriate way. Parents need to
tell teens directly why teen pregnancy is a bad idea. Perhaps surprisingly, the MTV reality show,
“16 and Pregnant,” may be a positive force in preventing teen pregnancy. Eighty-two percent of teens who watch the
show say it has helped them understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and
parenthood, and why they should avoid it.
The show can be a good launching off point for conversations between
parents and their teens.
community-based educational programs are more likely to be helpful if they are
comprehensive sex education programs that review specifics of contraceptive
use. Teens who have been through
abstinence-only education tend to have sex at a similar rate to those who’ve
been through comprehensive sex education programs, only they use birth control
With more open
dialogue between parents and teens, and more sex education that focuses on
specific ways to avoid pregnancy, besides abstinence, the teen pregnancy rate can
be further reduced.
in my book, FOR THE LOVE OF BABIES, are teenagers. Read their stories in the book, now available on Amazon's and Barnes and Noble's websites.
Creating a Huge “Win-Win” with Breastfeeding
seems like reducing our healthcare spending is on everyone’s minds these days. Want to know a good way to cut our costs while
simultaneously creating a major win for today’s babies and families?
solution sounds simple enough: If 90% of
American babies were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their
lives, we could save $13 billion in healthcare and other costs and save nearly
a thousand lives (mostly infants) each year!
This is the conclusion of a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics.1
Amazing statistic, isn’t
it? How is that even possible, you might
helps establish babies’ immune systems and is protective against a wide variety
of infections, especially diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. In addition, breastfeeding helps decrease the
incidence of many other serious conditions that can lead to chronic health problems,
expensive hospitalizations, and sometimes even death: asthma, atopic dermatitis, SIDS, type I diabetes
mellitus, childhood leukemia, and childhood obesity. There are health benefits for mothers who
breastfeed, too, including lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer.
Human milk can serve as
a complete source of babies’ nutrition during their first six months of life. They don’t need any formula or baby food at
all. But, although 75% of mothers start
out breastfeeding their babies, by the time babies reach six months of age, only
13.3% of their mothers are still giving them only breast milk.
The Surgeon General has
just issued a “Call to Action” with numerous ideas on what can be done to help
make breastfeeding easier for all mothers.
Recommendations include providing support and education to both parents
about the benefits of breastfeeding, strengthening community resources that
promote exclusive breastfeeding, improving healthcare workers’ knowledge and
support of breastfeeding, and encouraging workplaces to become more accommodating
towards women who desire to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.
The goal of the government’s
Healthy People campaign is for at least 50% of mothers to exclusively
breastfeed for the first six months. It
would be a great win for America’s babies and children if we could meet and
even exceed that goal; as a society we would win by reaping huge economic
1Bartick M &
Reinhold A. “The
Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis.” Pediatrics
The Importance of Folic Acid Before and During Pregnancy
About 3,000 babies are born every year in the
U.S. with either anencephaly or spina bifida; these are serious birth defects
(also known as neural tube defects) in which the baby’s skull and spine do not
completely close during prenatal development.
If a woman takes folic acid, a B vitamin, before and during pregnancy,
she can reduce the incidence of her infant being born with one of these defects
One thousand more infants per year are now born healthy
since a national campaign began in 1998 to encourage women capable of becoming
pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent these
defects. Women should begin taking folic
acid at least one month before conceiving and continue throughout pregnancy. The recommended daily amount of folic acid
(400 micrograms) can be obtained by either taking a multi-vitamin daily (most
will have 100% of the daily value of
folic acid, check the label) or eating one bowl of fortified cereal every day. Such cereals include Raisin Bran, All-Bran,
Special K, Quaker Oatmeal, and many others (again, read the labels to ensure
the product provides 100% of the daily value of folic acid). Folic acid is also found in orange juice, peas, broccoli, lentils, asparagus, and spinach.
The annual costs for medical and surgical care for people
with spina bifida is more than $200 million.
Lifetime care for a single child born with this condition is estimated
to be $560,000.
One of the chapters in FOR THE LOVE OF BABIES is about a
mother who gives birth to a baby with anencephaly; in this story, the importance of taking preventive folic acid is reiterated. You can also read more about
the importance of folic acid during pregnancy on the CDC's website here.