teens
July 11, 2017

Contraceptive use helps teen pregnancy rate hit record low

Teenage pregnancy rates are down and birth rates among 15-19 year old females have reached an all-time low in the US, and increased contraceptive use appears to be the reason why, two studies published last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have revealed.

According to Saludmovil, a health and lifestyle news site for bilingual Hispanics, data collected by the CDC from 2011-15 revealed that the teen pregnancy rate fell to 22.5 births per 1,000 teens in 2015, down from 62 births per 1,000 teens in 1991 and a 9% decrease from 2014.

To put those numbers into context, that’s a 67% decrease in teen births in 14 years, CNN noted. Dr. Elise Berlan at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who was not involved in the research, called it a “phenomenal decline” and said that birth control was likely responsible.

“Data [from previous years]... suggests it is access to contraceptives and use of contraceptives that has really led to these kind of changes,” Dr. Berland said, telling CNN that “most teens are using some form of birth control,” with the condom topping the list. The CDC research appears to support that notion, as it shows that nearly all sexually active teens are use contraceptives.

In fact, the CDC study found that 99.4% of females between aged 15-19 reported that they used some form of contraceptive between 2011-15, up from just 97.7% in 2002 and 80% in 1988, said Saludmovil. The report also found that females were also more likely to use contraceptives when having their first sexual encounter (81% in 2011-2015 versus 74.5% in 2002).

Experts tout progress, but US still trails other developed nations

Furthermore, the research uncovered what Saludmovil calls a “significant” decline in the rate of 15-19-year-old teenagers having sex. In 1988, 60% of males and 51% of females reported having sex. In the latest research, those statistics have dropped to just 44% and 42%, respectively.

National Center for Health Statistics researcher Joyce Abma, co-author of one of the new CDC studies, told Reuters that teen pregnancy rates peaked in 1990 and have fallen by more than 50% since then. Meanwhile, Abma said, sexual activity levels fell sharply until around 2002 and have gradually decline since then, while the use of contraceptives has steadily risen since that time.

Seventy-four percent of female teens said that their first sexual encounter was with someone they had already been romantically involved with, compared to 51% of male teenagers, Reuters noted. Nearly 40% of males and 20% of females said that their first experiences were with someone that they considered “just friends” or were seeing “every once in a while,” while 7% of males and 2% of females said that the first time they had sex was with someone they had just met.

“My take-away message from these trends over the years is that young people are doing a great job at making responsible decisions about their sexual health,” said Nicole Cushman, executive director of the sexual education organization Answer, according to Saludmovil. “I think it really shows that when we equip young people with the knowledge and the skills to protect their sexual health, they’re capable of making decisions best for them.”

Perhaps, but as the reported emphasized, the teenage pregnancy rate is still higher than in other developed countries. In fact, as Saludmovil explained, Canada’s teen pregnancy rate in 2011 was just 13 per 1,000 teens, while France (7 per 1,000 teens) and Germany’s (5 per 1,000 teens) were even lower.

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