DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Mississippi is leading the nation when it comes to teen childbirth, with more pregnant teenagers than any other state.
Despite the high numbers, the rates are actually going down. The Center for Disease Control found teen pregnancies are decreasing across the U.S. but Mississippi is still worst in the nation.
"Historically we've had for years the leading teen birth rate in the country," says Dr. Mary Currier, Mississippi's State Health Officer.
"It's pretty obvious," says teen Nicole Hughes. "There's a lot of people that are pregnant that we know."
64 out of every 1,000 teenagers were pregnant in Mississippi last year. This year that number went down to 55. The state calls it a decent decrease, but the national average is 34.
"I'm grateful to see it," says Currier. "We're basically following the trends of the country, we're just many years behind the rest of the country as far as those decreases."
So why the change? The CDC credits more teens using birth control and waiting longer to have sex. But Mississippi still has a way to go.
"I feel like because Mississippi is also one of the most religious states that people aren't comfortable enough talking about birth control," Hughes says. "They think it's a hush-hush topic. Kids don't know what birth control is out there and they don't use it."
"In health class it's just basic contraceptives, just telling you to use condoms, but they don't get in depth because they can't," she adds.
Next year, state schools will be required to teach abstinence. Districts have the choice between two programs. One includes going in-depth about birth control, one doesn't.
"A lot of places say that's something we think the parents should teach and that's fine," says Currier. "In places with high rates of teen pregnancy, you would hope the schools would help the parents in providing that education for their children."
DeSoto County has chosen not to teach in depth about birth control. It has 33 pregnant teens for every 1,000 teenagers. That's much lower than the state average, and lower than the national average.